The Education Bill, published today, 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.
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.
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.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said today:
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 best school systems in the world are characterised by strong accountability so, in addition to recent changes to performance tables, the Government is also reforming the school inspection system.
Under the current Ofsted framework, inspectors make at least 27 separate judgements. We are focusing inspection on four key areas:
- pupil achievement
- leadership and management
- behaviour and safety
We want inspectors to spend more of their time concentrating on teaching to drive improvement in educational standards. The Bill will also exempt ‘outstanding’ schools from routine inspection so they can be free to continue doing what they do so well. Ofsted will be able to focus its resources on the underperforming schools.
International league tables show we are not performing at the same level as many countries across the world. The Government believes we must learn from the best education systems. That’s why the Bill puts a duty on Ofqual, the independent watchdog for qualifications, to compare our exam standards against the highest performing systems. It will ensure England does not continue to fall behind other countries.
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. Teachers tell us they have to spend hours outside of the classroom going to meetings and filling in forms because of bureaucratic requirements. It takes them away from the core purpose of improving learning. For example, schools have to produce a specific ‘school profile’ about themselves. 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, including the duties to:
- secure consent from the Skills Funding Agency before borrowing money
- promote the social and economic wellbeing of the local area
- have regard to guidance on consultation with students and employers.
Local authority powers to direct a college to invoke disciplinary procedures and appoint members to governing bodies will be removed.
The Education Bill had its first reading on Wednesday 26 January, and is published today.