Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 16:17 UK

Ed Balls drops key education reforms

cuddle cartoon
Sex education was going to become compulsory in 2011

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has dropped key reforms, including compulsory sex education for 15-year-olds, after failing to win Conservative support.

The reforms are being shelved to push the Children, Schools and Families Bill through parliament before it is dissolved before the general election.

One-to-one tuition, a home education register and school report cards are among the abandoned plans for England.

Mr Balls expressed his "deep regret", but the Tories defended their position.

Under the redrafted Bill, home school agreements, which give head teachers stronger powers to enforce parents' responsibilities in maintaining good behaviour, have been dropped.

Reforms of the primary school curriculum, allowing schools greater flexibility to tailor teaching to their children, have also been shelved, as have catch-up lessons, one-to-one tuition and small group support for pupils needing extra support.

Mr Balls has been forced to drop plans for a licence to practise for teachers, as well as well as a requirement that local authorities carry out parental satisfaction surveys on secondary schools.

The Bill will no longer give local authorities powers to intervene in schools causing concern and it will not give powers to the secretary of state to intervene in failing youth-offending teams.

'Significant setback'

In a letter to his Conservative shadow Michael Gove, Mr Balls said: "I do believe the interests of children would have been better served had you agreed to these provisions reaching the statute book.

This Bill would have meant a great new wave of bureaucracy swamping schools
Conservative spokesman

"Your refusal means the loss of a number of key provisions that would have made a significant difference to the lives of children and their families.

"It is a great pity that you have put at risk improvements in our schools, support for pupils, and the wellbeing of our young people."

Mr Balls said if Labour won the election he would make sure these measures made it on to the statute book in the first session of the new Parliament.

'Wave of bureaucracy'

But the Conservatives said they had successfully blocked more bureaucracy for teachers.

A spokesman said: "This Bill would have meant a great new wave of bureaucracy swamping schools and it is good news that it has collapsed - teachers will breathe a sigh of relief. "

Mr Gove said the Tories had opposed plans to remove a parent's right to veto sex education from the age of 15 because "children are children until they are 16, and after that they are adults".

A spokesman stressed that the Tories were in favour of making PSHE statutory, but wanted to support the right of parents of 15 year olds to withdraw their children from these lessons.

"The government refused to allow parents to withdraw children under the age of consent from any sex education they considered inappropriate," he said.

Mr Gove said the Tories had opposed government plans for one-to-one tuition for children who fall behind because head teachers had been against it, and because it was unnecessarily bureaucratic, tying the hands of teachers.


The Terrence Higgins Trust criticised the Tories for their failure to support compulsory sex education for pupils at age 15.

"It's a disgraceful betrayal of the next generation," said policy director Lisa Power.

Sexual health charity Brook said it was "extremely disappointed that young people could be let down yet again" over sex education.

National director Simon Blake said: "A broad consensus has now been established between children, young people, parents and professionals in support of statutory sex and relationships education.

"All politicians must listen to this majority."

The home educators' group, Education Otherwise, welcomed the shelving of the compulsory register for home-educated children.

"There is a huge sense of relief that this has been rejected," said spokeswoman Ann Newstead.

"We are thankful for the support of opposition MPs who took the trouble to listen and engage with home educators.

"We are looking forward to the general election and the opportunity to make our feelings known by the way we vote at the ballot box."

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