Page last updated at 14:07 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Education reforms set in train

classroom scene
The measures give legal force to measures already announced

The Queen's Speech confirmed plans to create more apprenticeships, to increase local accountability and boost schools' powers to search pupils.

The measures set down for legislation in the next year contain few surprises as most had already been announced.

Local councils in England are to take over the funding and organisation of education for 16 to 19-year-olds.

And they will have a legal duty to intervene earlier in failing schools in a move to make every school a good one.

This follows the government's targeting of England's lowest-performing schools in the National Challenge programme.

On school standards, the Queen said the changes were aimed at "ensuring every school is a good school by reducing burdens on the best while strengthening the powers to intervene where schools require support".

Part of this involves good schools facing fewer Ofsted inspections but with the publication of statements on their progress between inspections.


The Children Schools and Families Secretary, Ed Balls, said: "This Bill marks a significant step towards the vision set out in the Children's Plan to improve schools and training to deliver excellence for all.

"This Bill underlines our commitment to revolutionising the education system so that it delivers for all young people whatever their interests or abilities.

"Local authorities will play a key role in making this happen as they are best placed to respond to the needs of young people locally."

We have rescued and expanded apprenticeships
John Denham, Skills Secretary

Legislation has recently been passed to raise the age at which people in England can leave education and training from 16 to 17 in 2013 and to 18 in 2015.

Under measures confirmed in the Queen's Speech, local authorities will take over the funding and organisation of education for 16 to 19-year olds from the Learning and Skills Council, so will be responsible for making the age change happen.

They will be supported in this by a new national body, called the Young People's Learning Agency. The legal framework is also set out for widening entitlement to apprenticeships and for people to have the right to request time off for training.

Skills Secretary John Denham said: "The Bill will put apprenticeships on a legal footing for the first time. We have rescued and expanded apprenticeships.

"Ten years ago only 65,000 people started apprenticeships and today that number has nearly trebled to 183,000."


Efforts to improve the education of young offenders and those in pupil referral units - who have been excluded from mainstream schooling for misbehaviour - are also to be enshrined in law.

The education of young offenders is to be put under the general education umbrella and local authorities will have a duty to guarantee the quality of education available at young offenders institutions in their areas.

As expected, all secondary schools are to be made to work in local partnerships, with the aim of improving behaviour and tackling truancy.

Most schools already do this. Participation in such a body also involves a commitment to even-handedness in terms of expelling pupils - so that a school which permanently excluded pupils would be expected to take in students expelled by others.

The measure results from a review of behaviour in schools by Sir Alan Steer.

His call for schools to be given powers to search pupils for alcohol, illegal drugs and stolen goods - accepted by the government in July - is also to be given legal backing.

Other measures in the Children, Skills and Learning Bill - which applies only to England - include:

  • Ofqual given statutory footing to take over responsibility from QCA for maintaining standards and regulating the qualifications market
  • Confirmation that the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is to be scrapped to make way for the Young People's Learning Agency, which will support local authorities to carry out their responsibilities for 16-19 year olds, and a new Skills Funding body which will take responsibility for adult learning
  • Parents to be given a clearer route to have their complaints about schools heard
  • A new negotiating pay body set up for school support staff
  • Government to take stronger powers to enforce measures designed to safe guard teachers' pay and conditions, for example their right to preparation time.

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