Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 13:51 UK

Drive to tackle weakest schools

school fence
Struggling schools may be closed or converted to academies

There is to be new legislation to fulfil the government's pledge to eliminate weak schools by 2011.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown told MPs it was unfair to consign any child to a poor school.

Setting out his legislative plans, he said an education bill would also give parents the right to better information on their children's progress.

It would also make the qualification system independent and make schools more accountable to parents.

As usual Mr Brown spoke in general terms, but his plans will relate only to England as education is a devolved matter.

"It is unfair to consign any child to a poor school or even one that is coasting along without the ambition to do better.

"So having legislated this year for education to 18 there will be a second education bill to support our plan to ensure that, by 2011, no school is underperforming," he said.


"There will be the first independent qualifications system to guarantee to parents the highest standards," Mr Brown added - providing the statutory footing for the new regulator, Ofqual.

Every single child - whatever their background and wherever they go to school - deserves an excellent education and the chance to reach their full potential
Ed Balls
Schools Secretary
"There will be more power for parents to receive regular information on their children's progress and, as we expand academies, reform to strengthen the accountability of schools to parents, giving them a bigger say on how to raise standards and whether new schools are needed in an area."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said that central to the bill would be new powers for the schools secretary to ensure local authorities intervene early to address underperforming schools where there is cause for concern.

This is something they already have the power to do - the concern in Whitehall is that it is not always exercised at an early enough stage.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said: "Every single child - whatever their background and wherever they go to school - deserves an excellent education and the chance to reach their full potential.

"That is why I will ensure that local authorities use their existing powers to intervene early to help seriously underperforming schools improve, where there is clear cause for concern.

"And I am also determined to give local areas the funding and support they need to break ingrained cycles of deprivation and low attainment. Pupils and parents deserve no less."

Parental involvement

Other elements will reform pupil referral units for those who are excluded from mainstream schools, and provide better support for vulnerable children.

There will be a White Paper exploring different ways of providing such alternative education.

Parents will get a bigger say on how to raise standards and whether new schools are needed in an area.

Pupils who are falling behind will receive targeted support to help them keep up, including one to one tuition.

There is also going to be a consultation on how to engage parents better in their children's schools and learning and to provide them with better information.

Research published only last week by the department said however that 86% of parents already felt their child's school provided clear information on the progress they were making.

Half (51%) felt "very involved" in their child's school life - up from 29% in 2001.


The head of the Association of School and College Leaders, John Dunford, said: "The current education and skills bill hasn't yet gone through Parliament and ministers are already busy planning the next round of legislation.

"More than 20 education acts have been passed in the last 20 years and the very last thing schools and colleges needs is more change."

He added: "Heads and principals are weary of this annual treadmill of education bills and need time to implement the legislation that is already in the statute books."

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