This act completed its passage through parliament by receiving royal assent on15th November 2011. It makes for some grim reading in places. I have picked just a few selected areas to comment on, from my personal point of view.
Section 2 gives school staff the power to search students if there are reasonable grounds to suspect they have weapons, illegal drugs and alcohol or stolen property. Action would be needed on these things but it is the role of the police to deal with criminal offences, I would think it unlikely that staff would want to get involved in this way.
Section 5 removes the right of parents to 24 hours notice of detention of a student outside school hours. This is not a good idea. It may cause disruptions to other members of the family, including other children, and could cause transport problems and undue worry to parents. Parents are blamed for poor parenting but it doesn’t help if they are not given the information or control they need relating to their child. If they know about the detention beforehand they have the opportunity to add their own discussion with their child and reprimand. Of course schools can still choose to give advanced notice despite the act.
Section 13 imposes reporting restrictions on allegations of teacher misconduct until this has been investigated. This seems fair under an initial presumption of innocence.
Section 20 requires community, voluntary and foundation schools to participate in surveys. This is daft as it does not include academies and free schools, especially given that it is clear that Michael Gove is undertaking a massacre of the other types of schools anyway. Perhaps that‘s why he puts the requirements in, to find further excuses to academise these schools against their will.
Section 25 abolishes the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency. I can’t say I’ll miss it but that is not to say I have any confidence whatsoever in the way curriculum might be developed in its place.
Section 29 requires maintained schools to secure impartial careers guidance for students about all 16-18 education and training opportunities. This is a good idea in principle but sources of such advice could be difficult to find. Again, why exclude academies and free schools from this? Don’t those students have the same right to an informed choice? Or will they be channelled down a route not necessarily chosen by them?
Section 31 repeals the key stage 4 diploma entitlement. Good, this was a crazy, cumbersome and largely useless system the previous Labour government was imposing, business led with hardly a consideration of students and teachers.
Section 35 on school meals is good in the sense that it does not allow maintained schools to profit from school meals. But why leave academies and free schools able to overcharge for meals? But it allows different charges to different pupils for the same meal, which is just obviously unfair.
Section 37 demands that any new school proposed by a local authority must be an academy. For those of us who believe that academies do not allow proper democratic involvement by parents and teachers in their governance, as well as giving a poorer guarantee of a broad and fair education, this is obviously not a good thing, but unsurprising given that both the previous Labour government and the current Conservative government have forced this route. Decent education is in decline under all these politicians.
Section 46 allows far too much meddling by the Secretary of State in local authorities’ financial provisions for the schools it maintains.
Section 55 seems to be the one being used by Michael Gove to force academies on schools deemed to require intervention. This is despite the fact that there is no evidence that this will improve performance. And what about underperforming academies? What is to be done with them? He is just a bully who does not care a jot about what local families using the school think. How can he imagine such a horrible tactic will encourage a school to flourish? More on that one to come I think.
Section 74 requires under the Conservatives, as it did under Labour, that compulsory education or training will be extended to age 18. I don’t agree with this. I am a strong believer in the value of post-16 education but I would not like it to be compulsory. If a young person wishes to start work at 16 instead, I don’t see why they shouldn’t. Not that there are many jobs to go to at present. This reduction in choice can only be a bad thing, for the young people ending up in more education when they don’t want to be there and for the other young people and teachers they may be causing disruption to.
Section 76 allows in higher education higher interest rates for student loans, plunging students into even more debt, disgraceful! If the state wants the young to be educated then it, we the taxpayers, should pay for this and not burden these young people with huge debt they will still be saddled with much later in life.
Well there are good points in this act, but they are few and far between. It does look like some bureaucracy is removed but at the expense of democratic rights, particularly of local communities, the students and their families. There is rampant academisation under the Tories, as there was under Labour. The future education for our young people looks very bleak indeed.