Tories draft first Education Bill

25th September 2009 at 01:00
Lawyers are already at work on key legislation

The full extent of the Conservatives' ambition for school reform is already being drafted in the party's first Education Bill, a move that illustrates the Tories' confidence in winning the next general election.

Sources close to senior Tories have told The TES that their lawyers are working on the potential legislation, which is believed to be one of the first major Bills that will be put forward should a change of government take place at the next election, which is unlikely to take place before next May.

The proposed Education Bill will set in motion new laws that will pave the way for primary academies, reduced local authority control over schools, and the transfer of key stage 2 assessment into secondary schools.

However, the Bill's main focus is expected to be legislation to develop the Tories' plans for New Academies, which will greatly expand the existing academies programme.

Based on a hybrid of the Swedish Free Schools model and US Charter Schools, the Tories will use the Bill to "breathe life" into the supply side of setting up new schools.

Crucially, the New Academies will be free from local authority control, which the Conservatives believe will greatly increase standards.

One source told The TES: "Too many local authorities have allowed failing schools to continue to fail without taking radical action, while claiming that they deliver real accountability and nobody else can do their job.

"The Tories don't accept this or the low expectations that go with it.

"With many local authorities now under Tory control they are perhaps better positioned now than they have ever been to drive though reforms against local and union opposition to address underachievement and to increase educational opportunities particularly, but not exclusively, for the most disadvantaged."

The Conservatives have already set up an independent organisation that will "advise and facilitate" potential education providers on how to set up New Academies.

It is understood that shadow schools secretary Michael Gove is to meet with key education providers next month to discuss what the "obstacles" are in setting up such schools, as well as what can be done to stimulate the supply market.

The Tories' Bill is also expected to dramatically pare back legislation that is currently being put forward within the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill.

A source close to Michael Gove has described the ASCL Bill as the "usual Byzantine horror story", and revealed that the first piece of Tory education legislation would repeal the "overwhelming majority" of the ASCL Bill.

Among the first things to go would be the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA), a new quango in the process of being set up to take over some of the responsibilities of the now defunct Learning and Skills Council.

One Tory insider simply described the YPLA as being "doomed" should the Conservatives come to power next year.

Pet policies

The Bill is likely to include:

  • Expansion of the academies programme via the New Academies initiative
  • Introduction of thousands of additional school places
  • Law to give more power to teachers
  • Establishment of primary academies
  • Reduced local authority control over schools
  • Shift of key stage 2 testing into secondary schools.

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