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Ed Balls' week: a new bill, more academies and a school visit

Universities and good schools, he says, can sponsor academies

GORDON BROWN revealed on Wednesday a new education bill to raise the school and training leaving age to 18.

The Prime Minister said the challenge for the Government was to support all parents with children and invest in the education chances of all young people.

Incorporated in the new Education and Skills Bill will be hisfavoured project to upgrade skills training so that Britain can compete with monster economies like China and India.

A Downing Street spokesman said it would provide free literacy and numeracy training for adults up to GCSE level, and enable the Government to levy certain industry sectors to pay for training.

Ed Balls announced a limit on academy freedoms and a push towards more public sector sponsorship of state-funded independent schools, raising the prospect of one successful academy sponsoring another. He emphasised his support for academies but said new ones would now have to follow the national curriculum in core subjects.

Mr Balls also abolished the need for schools, colleges or universities to find pound;2m before becoming an academy sponsor.

Universities were to play a big role in the programme's expansion. Mr Balls revealed nine had already expressed an interest in sponsoring academies and said he wanted all universities to become involved.

"The test of whether an organisation can be a sponsor should not be its bank balance," he said, "but whether it can demonstrate leadership, innovation, and commitment to act in the public interest

There was also emphasis on the greater role local authorities were beginning to play in academies, sometimes through sponsorship.

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