Time running out for Labour's education Bill

THE Government faces a race to push through its flagship education Bill before Parliament rises for the summer holidays, writes Jon Slater.

Opposition parties have pledged to fight for concessions on teacher workload and powers for schools to form companies when the Bill returns to the Lords next Tuesday. With the Commons scheduled to rise on Wednesday, that leaves ministers just two days to get legislation passed. If they fail, they will have to choose between extending the parliamentary year or delaying plans to increase innovation in schools by up to a year.

The Government this week used its Commons majority to reinstate measures to allow schools to set up companies which had been removed by peers. But ministers abandoned plans to give headteachers a greater say over how local education authorities set school budgets with new schools' forums being restricted to an advisory role.

The Government also attempted to compromise by promising an annual report to Parliament setting out what regulations had been sent to schools. But Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, dismissed the promise of an annual report as "gesture politics".

Both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are confident of extracting further concessions before the Bill is eventually passed.

Graham Brady, Conservative education spokesperson in the Commons, said that the Government had failed to answer peers' concerns over companies.

"It would be wrong to legislate in haste and leave schools, LEAs and even the churches to repent at leisure," he said. "We are prepared to work later into the summer if necessary to get a better Bill.

A government spokesman said: "We have responded to concerns the Lords have expressed about the Bill and the House of Commons has sent back a package we hope will be acceptable to the Lords."

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