Nicky Morgan
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will oversee the government's expansion of free schools (Getty)

The Conservatives have found an unlikely ally for one of their flagship education reforms after Labour leader hopeful Liz Kendall said her party should drop their opposition to free schools.

The shadow care minister went as far to say that people who run the independent schools "deserve credit".

"I'm not going to waste time obsessing about school structures. If a school is providing a great education, whether it's a local authority, academy or free school, we will back it. Full stop," Kendall declared.

The 43-year-old made the Blairite pitch to the press gallery after launching her leadership campaign in the wake of Ed Miliband's resignation.

The comments leave Labour and their shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, in an awkward position.

The Stoke-on-Trent MP criticised the government's plans to create 270,000 extra free school places over the next Parliament as "irresponsible".

But Hunt dramatically threw his support behind Kendall this week after he was tipped to enter the Labour leadership race.

The push from Kendall to the right will play into the hands of the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, who described free schools as "modern engines of social justices".

Morgan yesterday (21 May) confirmed her party's manifesto to open 500 new free schools ahead of the next general election, the Press Association reported.

"Parents want the best for their kids, and where they are unhappy with the schools on offer locally the free school programme empowers them to demand more and establish new, high performing, community-led new schools," she said.

Meanwhile, Morgan's controversial predecessor, Michael Gove, has been appointed justice secretary in David Cameron's first cabinet reshuffle.

The former journalist made a range of reforms to the education system, including an expansion of free schools. Morgan has since continued with Gove's project to increase the numbers of the semi-independent educational establishments.

But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has maintained that academies and free schools do not raise standards more effectively than other state school structures.