Known as a pragmatist- he is keen on looking closely at the evidence


We know that Stephen Twigg, the new Shadow Education Secretary, is keen on ensuring that evidence informs policies. He is comfortable with data. He was regarded as a competent Minister in the last Labour government –responsible, of course, for schools.  He said in a Commons debate earlier this year “Improving educational performance is actually about what happens at the school level and the local level. We know that, because we know that schools with very similar intakes that have very similar amounts of money spent on them perform very differently from each other. Improving educational performance cannot be only about the context or the amount of money that is spent, although clearly both those things matter.”

He continued “the head teacher in a school is critical. The quality of leadership around and below the position of head teacher is also important. Governors are important, too..” He is also a fan of the Teach First programme-” Teach First is a great programme and a great example of learning from another country, because it was modelled on a scheme in the US that enjoys strong cross-party support. Whatever else happens in the field of education policy, we should all continue to support and encourage the further expansion of the Teach First programme.” And having visited   a school run by not for profit Charter school chain KIPP in the United States he was impressed by the KIPP model. He appears to be pragmatic on the Swedish Free schools model  acknowledging that these schools  are popular with parents . But he  says that perhaps  it is “the case that the free schools have not delivered the national system-wide improvement in Sweden that their proponents originally anticipated”, . He also feels that there appears to be evidence that school autonomy does  indeed improve standards- although results achieved by autonomous  charter schools in the US  are mixed.

He added “ The dilemma that all of us who care about education policy face is how we best measure schools and how we ensure that that measurement does not distort choices.” And feels that the jury is still out on whether the E-Bacc is a good idea or not.

Most recently Twigg, in an interview with the Liverpool Daily Post, said Labour will embrace the government’s “schools revolution” providing certain tests are met.  He said “On free schools, I am saying that we need to apply a set of tests, that we are not going to take an absolute policy of opposing them. The tests should be: will the school raise standards for pupils and parents, will it contribute to a narrowing of the achievement gap between rich and poor, and what is the wider impact of that school?”

Twigg denies that this is a substantial departure from the policy adopted by his predecessor ,Andy Burnham

Overall, Twigg is a pragmatist and realises that many Labour supporters are not only  sympathetic to free schools but are involved in setting them up.


PS. 18 October  Twigg has just told Sky News that ‘There are very, very real concerns about the free schools policy, I share those concerns.’ Has he been sat on by the leadership?