Press release

Education Bill gives Secretary of State new powers to intervene in underperforming schools

Measures proposed to root out bad behaviour, tackle underperformance and improve accountability of schools.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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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 4 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 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 powers 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.

Raising standards

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.

Ofsted

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 4 key areas:

  • pupil achievement
  • teaching
  • 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 their resources on the underperforming schools.

Responding to these changes, Kate Dethridge, Head of Churchend Primary School, said:

It is good news that there will be a reduction in the criteria against which we are inspected. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be judged on the core purpose of raising standards. Schools should be trusted to achieve the right outcomes for their pupils, without having to be judged on the process to achieve those outcomes.

It is also welcome that outstanding schools will be exempt from inspections. Constantly self-reviewing and improving the school, and maintaining standards, is a head’s core purpose. Going through the process of an Ofsted inspection is time-consuming and does not add any value in an outstanding school.

Greg Martin, Executive Head of Durand Academy, said:

In recent years monitoring mechanisms have become increasingly complex and we welcome the move today to streamline Ofsted inspections to focus on the things that matter most to parents - quality teaching, effective leadership, good behaviour and safety for every child.

These are also the components of all great schools and Ofsted inspectors will now be able to work closely with improving schools to get these fundamentals right.

Ofqual

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 that England does not continue to fall behind other countries.

Behaviour

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 school 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 have to spend time outside of the classroom contacting parents. The Bill will remove the 24-hours notice requirement

Responding to the Bill, James McAtear, Head of Hartismere Secondary School, said:

These reforms will help to redress the balance in favour of good discipline in schools. They send out a strong message that our society is not willing to tolerate poor behaviour and that we will provide a safe and supportive environment in which every child can learn.

Bureaucracy

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 diktats. 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.

Responding to the measures on bureaucracy, Sue Barratt, Head of Bournville Junior School, said:

Headteachers currently spend 15 or more hours a week on unnecessary paperwork. This time could be better spent doing more important things as a headteacher - doing what we’re there for, raising standards of teaching and learning in the school, and supporting our staff and pupils in the classroom and around the school. We really appreciate that the government is listening to the profession and realises that unnecessary bureaucracy is hindering schools from carrying out their core purpose of raising standards in education for all children.

Larry Montagu, Head of St. Peter’s Catholic School in Gloucester, said:

Any legislation that reduces bureaucracy and allows teachers to concentrate on their core purpose of helping children learn has got to be applauded.

Dr Reena Keeble, Head of Canon Lane First School, said:

I am pleased this Bill will cut bureaucracy - taking away paperwork gives us greater freedom to address children’s needs, which is what we are here for. Spending time doing admin or getting stats together for inspections and data collections takes you away from focusing on your core purpose of ensuring children are able to get an outstanding education.

Penny Barratt, Head of the Bridge School (a special school), said:

Schools will really welcome the removal and clarification of some statutory and non-statutory requirements. This will support the reduction of bureaucracy, which schools have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

The Education Bill had its first reading on Wednesday 26 January 2011 and is published today.

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the Bill is available on the House of Commons website.

  2. Other measures in the bill:

    • As part of the Government’s ‘fairness premium’, the Bill also introduces a new entitlement to free early years provision for disadvantaged 2-year-olds, while maintaining a universal free entitlement for children aged 3 and 4
    • It repeals the duty on LAs to ensure every young person has access to 14 to 19 diplomas. We want schools and colleges to have the freedom to offer the qualifications that best serve their students. We will also give local authorities the freedom to target their support to those vulnerable and disadvantaged young people who they identify need it most
    • It simplifies the current bureaucratic competition process required to open a new school, and gives preference to the opening of new free schools. The legislation relating to academies will be extended to enable 16 to 19 academies and academies providing alternative provision to be established so the benefits of free schools and academies can be extended to more pupils
    • It ensures complaints about admissions arrangements at all schools, including academies, will go to the schools adjudicator so they are all dealt with consistently
    • It simplifies the complex intervention arrangements in underperforming sixth-form colleges, removing the dual roles of local authorities and the Young People’s Learning Agency. These changes will ensure resources are spent where they are most needed - on the front line. With less central prescription and interference, many functions of these arm’s length bodies will fall away and ministers will be able to take responsibility and be held accountable for the continuing functions.

The Bill will also take forward aspects of the changes to higher education student finance: change to interest rates on student loans and the regulation of fees for part-time students. All enquiries on these aspects should be taken to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

DfE enquiries

Published 27 January 2011