Education Bill outlines schools future


The government's Education Bill sets out details of how it will help teachers raise standards in schools. It includes measures to root out bad behaviour, tackle underperformance and improve the way in which schools are held to account.

In addition, the Bill will strengthen teachers’ powers to deal with bad behaviour. It gives teachers the power to search for any items schools ban that disrupt learning, like mobile phones and video cameras. It also gives schools the final say in expelling violent pupils and protects teachers from pupils making false allegations.

Measures in the Bill include:

  • extending the Secretary of State’s powers to intervene where schools are underperforming
  • introducing smarter school inspections. Ofsted will now focus only on four core elements of schools – pupil achievement, teaching, leadership and behaviour and safety
  • measuring our education system against the best in the world. Ofqual will compare our exam standards against the highest performing countries.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "We’re lucky that there are many teachers doing a fantastic job but there are still too many schools that simply aren’t good enough. We must learn from other countries which do things better.

"We’re giving more powers for teachers to do their job properly – the ability to impose better discipline – and freeing them from bureaucracy. The best schools will be freed from inspections so Ofsted will now concentrate on what matters – teaching and behaviour.

"But we also need tough new power to take action when things go wrong. In the worst schools there will be new intervention powers. Ofsted will focus on the worst-performing schools where they are needed most. It is unacceptable that children should suffer in schools that are not doing a good job."

Subject to the passage of the Bill, the Secretary of State will now be able to direct a local authority to close schools that are judged to be in special measures, require significant improvement, or have failed to comply with a warning notice. He will also be able to direct local authorities to give a warning notice to an underperforming school.
These new powers will mean the Government can intervene whenever a school is not providing the kind of education children deserve.

The Government is also reforming the school inspection system and want inspectors to spend more of their time concentrating on teaching to drive improvement in educational standards. Previously, inspectors measured schools in 27 categories but that is being reduced to four: pupil achievement, quality of teaching, leadership and management and the behaviour and safety of pupils.

Mr Gove said: "There are areas of Ofsted inspections, such as community cohesion or regulations governing what students bring in in their lunchboxes at lunchtime, which are entirely peripheral.

"One of the problems with Ofsted inspections is that they are asked to inspect and measure for things which, by definition, are hard to judge and not central to what schools are about."

The Bill will also exempt 'outstanding' schools from routine inspection so they can be free to continue doing what they do so well.

The Bill also gives teachers the power to tackle bad behaviour and maintain good discipline. The Bill will:

  • give teachers powers to search for items that disrupt learning.  Current rules mean children can’t be searched for items like hardcore pornography and video cameras. These items cause serious disruption to learning. Video cameras are used to record incidents of bad behaviour and post them online. The Bill will ensure teachers can search for any item banned by the school rules.
  • give schools the final say in expelling violent pupils. Exclusion should be a last resort but to ensure order in schools, heads need to be able to exclude violent pupils. At the moment a head can exclude a pupil for carrying a knife or acting violently, but their decision can be overruled and they can be forced to reinstate the pupil. The Bill will end this – heads’ decisions will be able to be reviewed but not overturned.
  • protect teachers from pupils telling lies. When violent pupils are punished they may react by making unfair allegations against teachers. These allegations can ruin careers and take good teachers out of the classroom for months on end. The Bill will protect teachers from pupils who tell lies. Teachers will remain anonymous until they are charged.
  • make it easier to impose detentions. Currently teachers have to give 24 hours notice to a child and parents for any after-school detention they want to issue. This stops immediate punishments and means children escape unpunished as teachers spend time outside of the classroom contacting parents. The Bill will remove the 24-hours notice requirement.

The Government is also stripping away the overbearing and unnecessary red tape that takes up teacher time that would be better spent in the classroom or preparing lessons. The Bill includes measures to:

  • abolish expensive and unaccountable bureaucratic bodies.  Currently there are too many quangos that take up schools’ time without leading to any real benefits to standards. The Bill will dissolve the General Teaching Council for England and the Qualification and Curriculum Development Agency. It will also abolish the School Support Staff Negotiating Body and the Training and Development Agency for Schools.
  • remove bureaucratic requirements on teachers and schools, which takes them away from the core purpose of improving learning. The Bill will give schools the freedom to describe themselves how they want and not follow bureaucratic diktat. The Bill will also remove the duty on schools and colleges to cooperate with children’s trusts and for schools to have regard to the area’s Children and Young People’s Plan. Local authorities will no longer have to provide school improvement partners, which are often just expensive bureaucracy, to every school.
  • remove bureaucratic requirements on colleges.

Local authority powers to direct a college to invoke disciplinary procedures and appoint members to governing bodies will be removed.

Labour's education spokesman Andy Burnham accused the government of going backwards.

"Michael Gove wants to take our schools back to the 1950s. It is an elitist, backward-looking vision that won't equip our children with the knowledge and skills they need for the modern world. Labour is committed to the highest academic standards, but Gove shows how out of touch he is when he prioritises Latin over ICT.

"National guarantees for parents will be replaced by a free-for-all. Gove will not even guarantee a qualified teacher in every classroom - free schools will be able to employ unqualified individuals to teach."

The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) has expressed serious concerns that gaps in the government’s education reforms threaten to leave deaf children without the vital support they need to achieve at school.

NDCS is concerned that if funding for support for deaf children, such as Teachers of the Deaf and specialist equipment, is delegated to all academies it will be spread so thinly that individual schools won’t be able to afford the essential help that deaf children need.  It may also see academies which have no deaf children needlessly receiving a share of that funding.

Brian Gale, Director of Policy and Campaigns at NDCS, said: “While these reforms continue apace, we are concerned that deaf children, who are currently underachieving at school and need vital support, will be left in limbo. 

“Without the right support, deaf children and young people are vulnerable to isolation, abuse, bullying, poor self-esteem and low levels of achievement."

Meanwhile, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, said: "The Bill has all the hallmarks of being conceived by power junkies.

"The rhetoric surrounding the Bill is 'localism'. The reality is an unprecedented, massive centralisation of power."

January 2011

School Leadership Today