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Absent Tories lose opt-out clause

The Education Bill finished its Committee Stage in the House of Commons this week with the Government making few concessions but left to rectify at the next stage the embarrassing loss of a clause.

The Bill extends selection in schools, gives new powers to grant-maintained schools and introduces new discipline measures, home-school contracts and baseline assessment. But due to a mix-up when two Tory members missed the vote the Government lost a clause which allows GM schools to expand by 50 per cent without seeking permission. The Government says it will restore the clause at the Report Stage at the end of the month. James Pawsey, Conservative MP for Rugby and Kenilworth, also intends to bring back an amendment which will allow schools to use corporal punishment, but his colleague David Shaw, MP for Dover, who had attempted to introduce a dress code for teachers has accepted defeat.

In response to opposition amendments the Government has agreed to consider making heads, rather than governors responsible for the method of baseline assessment. It has also agreed that any new GM school can be built only if there is "evidence of viability". The Government is also thought to be sympathetic to an amendment from Peter Kilfoyle, Labour education spokesman, which would give the new Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority the power to monitor institutions in disputes with the exam awarding authority.

QNCA, proposed in the Bill, will be formed from a merger of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications.

The Labour party has said it supports many parts of the Bill, for example the discipline measures, home-school contracts and baseline assessments, but it is totally opposed to any increase in selection and new powers for GM schools.

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