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Government accused over 'chaotic' education policy after Bill dropped

Published 27/10/2016

The Education For All Bill, which was announced in the Queen's Speech, will not now be introduced to Parliament
The Education For All Bill, which was announced in the Queen's Speech, will not now be introduced to Parliament

The Government has been accused of having a "chaotic" education policy after ministers quietly dropped a flagship Bill.

News that the Education For All Bill would not go before parliament was buried in a written statement, despite the proposed legislation getting the green light in the Queen's Speech.

Controversial measures in the Bill, which ministers had insisted would "spread educational excellence everywhere", included forcing schools judged to be under performing to switch to academy status beyond the control of local authorities by 2022.

This proposal was already a watered-down version of plans announced in the March Budget to compel all schools to become academies.

The Local Government Association's young people board chairman, Councillor Richard Watts, said: "We are pleased that the secretary of state is acting on the strong concerns from councils about the Government's planned education reforms.

"Today's announcement is the right decision and shows the Government has been listening to our concerns, which have been echoed by MPs, teachers and parents.

"Councils have been clear from the outset that the proposals within the Bill focused too heavily on structures, when our shared ambition is on improving education for all children.

"In particular, both the forced academisation of schools in areas considered to be 'unviable' and the removal of the council role in school improvement, went against evidence that council-maintained schools perform more highly than academies and free schools in Ofsted inspections, and that conversion to academies did not in itself lead to better results.

"In our submission to the Treasury ahead of the Autumn Statement, we have called on the Government to take advantage of councils' unique position in the community and give them a clear and strategic role in overseeing local schools systems, accompanied by appropriate resources, powers and flexibilities, so that they can support local school improvement and hold schools to account for education standards.

"We also urge government to reverse plans to cut £600 million from the Education Services Grant awarded to councils and academies next year."

Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: "When it comes to this Government's education policy chaos really does mean chaos."

A written statement from Education Secretary Justine Greening said: "We do not require wider education legislation in this session to progress our plans for an education system that works for all.

"No changes to legislation are required for these purposes and therefore we do not require wider education legislation in this session to make progress on our ambitious education agenda."

A spokesman for the minister said the department had expanded to take on higher education and skills since Ms Greening took over and it was felt all the "legislative levers" that were needed are currently in place, especially as plans to compel all schools to become academies had already been dropped.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said: "We welcome the demise of this legislation. It was, and remains, inappropriate to force good schools to convert when the evidence of any benefit is so dubious.

"As we have always said, tinkering with structures is a distraction from the real needs of schools - developing great teaching and great leadership.

"We will encourage all our members to keep making choices for the future based on the best interests of the pupils they serve, rather than fear or threat. For some this will lead to conversion to academy status; others will make different plans."

Press Association

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