Liam Byrne on World at One - 15 April 2014


Dear Friends,


I spoke to the BBC Radio 4's World at One today on the developments regarding Birmingham Schools.


You can read the transcript of my interview here below:





LIAM BYRNE – Birmingham Schools



Tuesday, 15 April 2014


Speakers:        Liam Byrne

                        Ed Stourton



ES:                  What is your reaction to this appointment?


LB:                  On the one hand, I’m frustrated, because frankly, Michael Gove has dithered for weeks over this question and today he’s rejected the advice of all ten of the city’s MPs. We’re a cross-party group; we wrote to Mr Gove at the beginning of last week to say ‘look, what’s needed is a process that allows us to get the full picture of what’s been going on, and to do that, we need a process that maximises people’s confidence. Now, we heard nothing back for a week, and then we find out this morning that Mr Gove is acting unilaterally, without even his colleagues in the Department for Local Government or the Home Office - he’s acting on his own - and he’s putting a former police officer in charge of the job, and I think Sir Albert is absolutely right. Sir Albert has proposed a very mature, steady, calming way forward, and now, I’m afraid, Mr Clarke has got an awful lot of work to do to build the confidence that is critical if we’re to get a full picture in place.


ES:                  You yourself have been complaining that this whole process has taken too long and needs to be wrapped up, at least this is decisive action isn’t it?


LB:                  So after about two months of this dragging on, Mr Gove is now proposing a process that is going to take another four months, and instead of hitting the ground running, he’s actually made the process, I think, harder by imposing someone who is going to have to spend, I’m afraid, sometime confidence building. Now, why is that confidence crucial? That confidence is crucial because we need people to come forward with lots and lots of different sides of the story, that’s the only way we’re going to build a full picture.


ES:                  But isn’t there a counter argument that says that precisely because of the complexity of the story and the way that people have got so involved in it you actually need somebody from outside who can come in with clarity of vision and I suppose begin again in a funny sort of way.


LB:                  That’s completely right, and that’s what Birmingham City Council announced yesterday, they announced a former head teacher, who’s a deeply experienced educationalist, to come and lead an advisor-led process that’s got support from lots of people, including the West Midlands Police, that’s the kind of process that we needed strengthening. There’s one other concern I’ve got, and I need to pursue Michael Gove on this later. It’s now very clear that a free-for-all education system with hundreds of academies and free schools answering directly to Michael Gove needs to be part of the consideration of any kind of inquiry. I’m really worried that there’s been a lack of oversight because there are some community schools, some academies involved, and that’s why I think the full picture has taken so long to emerge, and that has got to be front and centre of Mr Clarke’s review.