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Last-ditch bid to curb Bill's 'inequality'

Teachers and pupils are to press tomorrow for late changes to the education Bill to stop it creating greater inequality.

MPs are expected to begin debating the details of the legislation in Parliament next week.

Teachers' unions are calling on them to alter the Bill's more controversial proposals, which include shutting failing schools if they do not improve in a year and creating new independent trust schools, which could be overseen by businesses.

A conference tomorrow at London university's institute of education has been organised by the National Union of Teachers and is due to be attended by politicians, civil servants and representatives of student, governor, and parent organisations.

At a TES-sponsored conference last week, all the major school-staff unions pledged to join a campaign to alter the Bill.

Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, said that education unions had so far failed to get their arguments across to MPs.

Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, added: "We are still at a very early stage of the Parliamentary process, so there is a lot of time and a lot of opportunity to bring our influence to bear."

The conference was attended by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, who was heckled and faced demonstrators, some dressed in 19th-century costumes, who claimed her Bill was turning back the clock on education reform.

Ms Kelly addressed fears that trust schools could be sponsored by companies such as McDonald's by promising they would be charitable and there would be no "inappropriate branding".

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