Free schools given the green light

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The new coalition government has published its key policy plans, covering areas like political reform, public health, schools and education, Home Information Packs, tackling the deficit and reform of the banking system.

The coalition document - "The Coalition: our programme for government" - includes confirmation that the government will go ahead with plans for free school meals and the pupil premium.

The changes will make it easier to set up schools in the state system and will give schools more freedom over the curriculum.

According to the document, the government will "promote the reform of schools in order to ensure that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand; that all schools have greater freedom over the curriculum; and that all schools are held properly to account".

It continues: "We will give parents, teachers, charities and local communities the chance to set up new schools, as part of our plans to allow new providers to enter the state school system in response to parental demand".

Schools will also get more freedom over what they can pay teachers, says the document: "We will reform the existing rigid national pay and conditions rules to give schools greater freedoms to pay good teachers more and deal with poor performance".

"We will give heads and teachers the powers they need to ensure discipline in the classroom and promote good behaviour".

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union said: "When the Conservatives published their invitation to join the Government of Britain, the Liberal Democrats said the Conservatives' approach to school reform 'is completely muddled' and branded plans to reform the curriculum as 'confused, ill thought out and naive'.

"Based on the document issued, it is now clear that the Liberal Democrats have now accepted the 'Invitation to join the Conservative Government of Britain' unconditionally," she said.

General secretary of the NUT Christine Blower said: "The final coalition agreement on schools is a mixed bag. There is now included some welcome protection for Sure Start. It appears that there is a door open to reform Ofsted and league tables.

"At last a government has agreed a review of the Key Stage 2 tests. In the light of our boycott with the NAHT this is a step forward.

"However the proposals for groups to set up their own schools, irrespective of local planning needs, are a major step back. It will create planning gridlock and social division.

"The government needs to step back from this obsession that anyone other than a local authority must be better at running schools. What is needed is a good local school for every child working within their local family of schools."

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