Lords force ministers to rethink plans for forums

LONG-running plans to give heads and governors decision-making powers over council education budgets are likely to be dropped by ministers next week.

The Government is poised to scrub the controversial schools forums proposals from its education Bill in its desperation to get the Bill on to the statute book before Parliament rises later this month.

The move comes after Opposition peers defeated the Government on the issue during the Bill's Third Reading in the House of Lords last week.

The forum proposals, backed by headteachers' leaders, would have entitled groups of up to 50 heads and governors to advise on the whole council education budget and the right to decide on some minor areas of expenditure.

But the move was defeated in the House of Lords last week by an alliance of Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers, who argued that it was needlessly bureaucratic and undemocratic.

Labour could choose to reinstate the law when the Bill returns to the Commons but could then have found it blocked by the peers again, potentially delaying the introduction of the legislation. As it is, ministers face a race against time to get the Bill on to the statute book before Parliament rises on July 24. If they fail, plans to give schools more autonomy over teachers' pay and the curriculum could be delayed.

The Government is likely to over-rule two other Lords defeats, reinstating plans to allow schools to come together to form joint companies, and scrapping a Conservative bid to get them to specify how much time schools will have to spend implementing each new initiative.

LibDem spokeswoman Baroness Sharp told The TES that the Government could still have a fight on its hands if it pressed ahead with these plans.

She said: "If the Government offers absolutely no concessions, we would join with the Tories in voting down both schools forums and school companies. And if the Tories can come up with a sensible amendment on regulation, we could line up with them on that, too."

Graham Brady, Conservative education spokesperson, said that his party would be reluctant to delay the introduction of extra freedom for schools but that it would expect ministers to listen to the Lords' concerns.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you