More power to Estelle's elbow

The new Education Act gives the Education Secretary extra powers. Key changes are:

* All schools will be able to apply to opt out of any education law to support "innovative pilot projects" for raising standards. But the Education Secretary will decide whether to grant the request.

* 30 per cent of secondaries and 60 per cent of primaries will be able toapply to opt out of parts of the national curriculum and vary teachers'

pay and conditions. Again the Government will decide who benefits.

The Secretary of State will also be able to:

* order action by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority if an exam board makes mistakes;

* replace a school's governing body with an "interim board", and force a local authority to bring in outside help to struggling schools;

* set a local authority's education budget if it fails to pass on cash for schools;

* make minor changes to teachers' pay and conditions without referring to the School Teachers' Review Body.

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