Page last updated at 08:16 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 09:16 UK

Best heads 'to run school chains'

Ed Balls
Ed Balls will announce groups of schools working under a single head

Parents will have more rights over their children's education - and the best heads will run chains of schools, under new government education plans.

Ministers will unveil the last major education legislation for England before the next general election.

It is expected to include legally enforceable rights to schemes such as one-to-one tuition and sports provision in schools.

There will also be new "report cards" giving grades to schools.

This package of measures will be announced by the Children's Secretary Ed Balls on Tuesday afternoon, when he presents a White Paper entitled Your Child, Your Schools, Our Future: Building a 21st Century Schools System.

"It's radical. It's setting out for the first time in law clear pupil and parent guarantees," Mr Balls told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"There's a radical devolution of power to head teachers, backed up by stronger accountability, and an uncompromising approach to school improvement so every child succeeds."

School 'brands'

The White Paper will call for high-performing schools and education providers to take over their less successful neighbours, creating chains of schools with a shared "brand" identity.

There will be a list of successful schools and organisations accredited to set up such chains - which would mean groups of primary and secondary schools with similar uniforms and brand names under a single executive head teacher.

The plans will also contain proposals for report cards for schools - seen as a future alternative to school league tables as a way for parents to judge schools.

The report cards will grade schools in the context of their social intake and on measures of behaviour and attendance, as well as on test results.

There will be plans to allow parents of unruly pupils to be taken to court by schools.

This will support existing home-school agreements, which set out what is expected of parents and their children in the education system.

There will also be guarantees for pupils and parents over what schools provide, in areas such as access to individual tuition, a weekly quota of sports lessons and education and training places for 16-year-olds.

Head teachers' leader John Dunford has criticised such legal rights as "not appropriate" and likely to waste schools' time in unnecessary court cases.

This package of change for schools in England will attempt to seize the political initiative and show there is still momentum in Labour's public service reforms.

But another element of the White Paper will see the end of one of the cornerstones of Labour's original standards-raising drive, with the dismantling of the literacy and numeracy strategies in primary schools.

The Shadow Children's Secretary, Michael Gove, challenged the credibility of the finances for such spending plans.

"Ed Balls was talking about an increase in educational spending. He has made that promise before and he had to row back because the Chancellor of the Exchequer intervened to point out that the money simply wasn't there to pay for that level of investment in public services," said Mr Gove.

"Having rowed back two weeks ago, he has now moved back to the literally incredible position he was putting forward before."

The Liberal Democrats' schools spokesman, David Laws said: "Ed Balls is making promises on education which he knows he can't keep."

"The pledges have been so vague that it is unclear whether the new education and health 'entitlements' will actually be legally enforceable, let alone affordable."

Chris Keates, head of the NASUWT teachers' union, welcomed the promise of one-to-one tuition for pupils who have fallen behind.

"The proposal for one to one 'catch up' tuition for children and young people who have fallen behind their peers will be attractive to parents and teachers alike.

"All parents will have access to the help and support which has previously been the preserve of those with money seeking to buy advantage for their children," she said.

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