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Parents to sign up to good behaviour

Parents, said last summer's White Paper, Excellence in Schools, "are a child's first and enduring teachers". The home-school contract is the Bill's main proposal to draw them into the Government's drive to tempt disaffected and alienated pupils back into the fold.

All state-funded schools will have to draw up a document setting out aims and responsibilities, what it requires from the parents and the behaviour it expects from the child. Parents will be asked to sign a "parental declaration" accepting responsibility for ensuring that their child co-operates. Details will vary, but the agreement should include information about school ethos, discipline and behaviour, homework, bullying policy and attendance.

The Bill makes it clear that the document has no legal force. Governors and councils are warned that parents' willingness or otherwise to sign it must not affect decisions about admitting pupils. Breaches of the agreement - for example, if the parent fails to ensure that the child is suitably dressed, or if the school fails to educate the child to the parents' satisfaction - will not result in legal liability.

The Bill also proposes that council education committees should include parent representatives, who have children in schools in the LEA's area.

The Bill gives councils extensive new powers to intervene in potentially failing schools before they spiral into decline.

If an LEA decides that standards at a school are too low, that it lacks effective leadership or that behaviour is so bad that safety is at risk, it can issue a formal warning.

If the school does not improve within a "compliance period" the council will be able to appoint as many extra governors as it thinks fit within the following two months.

If a school has already been deemed to be failing by OFSTED, the council can only appoint emergency governors with the written permission of the Education Secretary, David Blunkett.

The Secretary of State will be able to appoint and pay as many emergency governors to a failing school as he thinks fit and replace the elected chair of governors with another, for as long as he thinks appropriate.

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