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  1. ITV Report

Labour 'will keep free schools', shadow minister says

Labour has dropped its opposition to the Conservatives' free schools policy, the new shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has announced.

Mr Hunt, who was among the big winners in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet reshuffle, confirmed that a Labour government would not close down any of the free schools established under reforms put forward by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Hunt said Labour the would be coming forward with its own version of the scheme - which enables groups of parents and other organisations to set up schools outside local authority control - to be called parent-led academies (PLAs).

The new shadow education secretary later emphasised that there were important differences between free schools and Labour's parent-led academies which would be financially accountable and required to employ properly qualified teachers.

Tristram Hunt the new shadow education secretary. Credit: PA Wire

Labour denied the party had performed a 'u-turn' on the issue, insisting its position had not changed and that the new shadow education secretary was continuing with the plans for parent academies set out by his predecessor, Stephen Twigg.

Hunt said he regretted previously describing free schools as a "vanity project for yummy mummies", insisting he wanted to "get behind parents and social entrepreneurs."

Labour denied the party had performed a 'u-turn' on the issue. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The chairman of the Conservative party Grant Shapps said Labour's policy on free schools remains unchanged and still features a "load of bureaucracy attached".

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Shapps said: "This is the same old Labour policy. They have been saying this for months," he told BBC News.

"Free schools will only be allowed in specific circumstances in specific areas with a whole load of bureaucracy attached."