Education and Adoption Bill Update
We analyse the Bill's progress through the House of Lords and considers the prospects of some interesting changes.
The Bill has now been reviewed by the House of Lords and sent to committee stage for detailed line by line analysis. The Lords proposed some interesting amendments in their discussion on Tuesday. Of course, the amendments will not necessarily be accepted into the final legislation.
The proposals include:
- Changing the term "coasting schools" for "schools in which pupils do not fulfil their potential". A number of the Lords made detailed submissions that the emphasis should be on providing the best opportunities for all pupils and wanted a lot more detail in the legislation. Proposals included ensuring that the school demographics, socio-economic trends in the school's geographical area, and availability of qualified teachers are taken into account.
- Specifically including academies as well as maintained schools as schools that might be designated as "coasting".
- Moving responsibility for designating "coasting schools" from the Secretary of State to the Chief Inspector in consultation with the Local Authority.
- Requiring an inspection of an academy trust before it takes over a "coasting school" a school requiring significant improvement or a school in special measures.
- Requiring more specific consultation requirements for schools who choose to convert to academy status including a requirement for the headteacher to hold a consultation meeting with parents.
Also a number of the Lords including Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (famous for his involvement with founding Ofsted and signing the first Order designating a school as "failing") expressed concern over the timescale for dealing with "coasting schools". The draft legislation requires a review of 3 years results and we know a school would then be given a grace period to implement change. He mentioned that quickly adds up to five years and a pupil could start and finish secondary school in that time with nothing being done to respond to their needs.
These are certainly interesting proposals. Some of the points such as taking the school's specific circumstances into account would be welcome news to many headteachers and improvement partners. However, it will always be difficult to balance an objective national system with local circumstances.
Those in already in the academy system know that the Secretary of State prefers to reserve broad powers and set out how they will be applied in policy documents which are amended frequently rather than include detailed legislative requirements. We have already seen this Government will steamroll their legislation and policies through if necessary (just remember the quick passage of the Academies Act back in 2010 or ask any junior doctor). So please take this note in the spirit it is intended, a note recording some of the interesting discussions on these challenging topics that the Bill is intended to tackle. These will not necessarily end up on the statute books.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Tim on 0113 244 6100.
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors