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Education and employment secretary Gillian Shephard today announced details of a new Education Bill to include meas...
Education and employment secretary Gillian Shephard today announced details of a new Education Bill to include measures to improve discipline in schools, extend choice and diversity for parents, and raise standards.

Mrs Shephard said: 'This government's reforms have taken us a very long way. But there is more to do. I am proposing to introduce a bill in the next session of parliament which will:

Strengthen the arm of schools in dealing with bad behaviour and indiscipline by pupils, while also ensuring that LEAs carry out effectively their responsibilities for children who are not in school. This would include:

-- Giving schools the power to detain pupils after school without the consent of their parents.

-- Giving schools the power to exclude pupils for 45 days in any year, rather than the current 15 days per term.

-- Allowing for schools to refuse to admit a child unless his or her parent had signed a home-school agreement.

Introduce measures to raise standards in schools which include:

-- Requiring primary schools to assess children on entry to provide a baseline against which their education can be planned and their progress measured.

-- Requiring schools to set targets for improving their performance.

-- Giving the Office for Standards in Education powers to inspect the effectiveness of local education authorities.

-- Promoting diversity between schools and choice for parents, by encouraging pupil selection and by giving grant maintained schools more power to develop what they do without needing central approval.

Mrs Shephard said: 'Over the past ten years the government has put in place a comprehensive framework for raising standards in schools. The National Curriculum sets out what children should be taught and the standards they should achieve. Schools have more freedom to take their own decisions, while being held to account for their performance. Parents have more choice in getting the education they want for their children.

'The bill will build on what has already been achieved, while further developing the principles which the government has consistently applied - choice and diversity for parents and pupils, freedom for schools to make their own decisions, higher standards of achievement, and a firm line on discipline and behaviour.'

Further measures to improve discipline and behaviour in schools will include:

-- Withdrawing parents' right to choose a new school in cases where their child has already been excluded from two or more schools. Schools would be able to refuse to take such children even if they still had empty places available.

-- Placing a duty on each school to draw up a discipline policy setting out: the standards of behaviour which it expects; how good behaviour and discipline will be encouraged; the sanctions which will be applied where those standards are breached.

-- Strengthening the rights of schools to be represented at appeal committee hearings on pupil exclusions; and placing a duty on appeal committees to haveregard to the interests of other pupils and staff at the school, as well as the interests of the excluded pupil, when considering whether to reinstate that pupil.

-- Placing a duty on each LEA to draw up and publish a plan setting out what forms of support they provide for schools in dealing with disruptive pupils, and their arrangements for carrying out effectively their duties in respect of excluded pupils and others not attending mainstream schools.

-- Setting up management committees to oversee the running of Pupil Referral Units (which cater for excluded pupils and other children not attending mainstream schools), including representatives from local schools.

Measures to raise standards in schools will include:

-- Baseline assessment of children entering primary schools. All primary schools would be required to assess pupils shortly after they are first admitted to the school to provide information to help teachers plan the child's education and establish a baseline from which future progress could be measured. The types of schemes which schools could use would be accredited by the new Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority.

Improving the quality of careers education and guidance by:

requiring schools to provide a planned programme of careers education and guidance for all 14-16 year olds;

requiring schools and colleges to provide pupils and students with access to good careers information;

requiring schools and colleges to co-operate with the careers service, including giving access to premises and information on pupils and students.

-- Extending the powers of the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) to inspect LEAs. Ofsted would be able to inspect what LEAs do in providing education for children of school age, and in supporting schools, particularly in raising standards. Such inspections, could be carried out in co-operation with the Audit Commission.

-- Merging the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications to form a new Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority.

Sir Ron Dearing's review of the 16-19 qualifications framework recommended that a single body should oversee both academic and vocational qualifications in England.

The authority's remit would be to ensure that the curriculum and assessment arrangements in schools, and the qualifications available in schools, colleges and the workplace were coherent and of high quality. This would be matched by an extended power for the secretary of state, on advice from QNCA, to approve the qualifications which can be offered by schools, colleges and other publicly funded training. A parallel body would be set up in Wales called the Qualifications Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales.

Measures to promote choice, diversity and deregulation will include more freedom for schools to select pupils by ability or aptitude, including encouraging more grammar schools. The main elements are:

To allow for different types of school to select a proportion of pupils by ability or aptitude without needing to seek central approval:

-- Grant maintained secondary schools would be able to select up to 50% of their pupils;

-- Specialist Schools - i.e. Technology and Language Colleges and in future Sports and Arts Colleges - in the LEA sector would be able to select up to 30% of pupils by ability or aptitude in their specialist subject; -

-- Other schools would be able to select up to 20% of their pupils.

-- To give LEA schools which want to become fully selective grammar schools a right of appeal to the secretary of state if the LEA does not respond constructively to their proposals.

-- To give LEA Specialist Schools a right of appeal to the secretary of state if the LEA does not respond constructively to proposals to use their power to select pupils.

-- To require secondary schools to consider once a year whether to introduce or increase selection by ability or aptitude, as part of a wider review of how they can develop to meet local needs and extend choice for parents.

Giving grant-maintained schools more power to decide for themselves how to develop to meet local needs, and promoting diversity more widely. The main elements are:

-- To give GM schools the power to set up nurseries, sixth forms and boarding facilities, and expand their capacity by up to 50%, without needing central approval.

-- To give the Funding Agency for Schools power to set up new GM schools in all areas where they are needed.

-- To enable the FAS to meet the development costs of third party promoters in drawing up plans for setting up new GM schools.

-- To allow county Specialist Schools to appoint sponsor governors.

GM and voluntary aided Specialist Schools can already appoint sponsor governors who represent the school's business or charitable sponsors. These arrangements would be extended to cover all Specialist Schools.

-- To allow the appointment of ballot observers for schools balloting for GM status, with a remit of ensuring fair play in ballot campaigns.

-- To enable the FAS to provide advice and assistance to the governing bodies of GM schools not just about financial problems (which it can already do) but also about management and governance problems.

Other measures will include:

-- Bringing agency teachers within the scope of the requirements which already apply to all other teachers on medical fitness, qualifications and barring on grounds of misconduc or health. The rules on barring would also be extended so that they apply to support staff and volunteers who have regular contact with children in schools.

-- Extending the Assisted Places Scheme to cover the full primary age range. At present the scheme only covers independent schools providing secondary education. The scheme would be extended to cover free-standing preparatory schools which only take pupils up to age 11.

-- Defining the beginning of compulsory school age, so that it links to three fixed dates in each year which would apply nationally, rather than, as now, linking to varying school term dates set by individual LEAs and schools. This will make things clearer for parents to ensure smooth dovetailing with the nursery education voucher scheme.

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