McConnell dresses the window
None of the educational initiatives is especially new or unexpected, apart from the headline-grabbing one of giving parents a statutory right to initiate school inspections. Like the now probably forgotten power of ministerial intervention in "failing" schools, this legislative leg-up for parents is probably in the category of political window-dressing: something which will play well but is unlikely ever to be used. As was argued this week, any sensible group of parents will try to resolve matters before they reach the inspectorate. The grievances of individual parents are another matter, which is why the promise of a mediation service in all education authorities is an issue of more substance.
The only other unexpected measure is the pledge to put nutritional standards of school meals on a statutory footing, after years in which the Executive insisted only guidance to authorities was necessary. This will have all the pitfalls of any such legislative step: the risk of litigation on whether authorities are meeting their statutory obligations and on what constitutes "nutritional". Jamie Oliver as expert witness, anyone?