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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Plan to let Ofsted close schools
classroom monitoring
More frequent Ofsted inspections are already on the way
Labour's election manifesto proposes empowering the English education inspectorate, Ofsted, to shut down failing schools.

At present that is a decision for politicians, locally or nationally.

Another new development is to have more small schools and boarding schools "to help disadvantaged children".

There are 33 state schools in England which take some boarders but Labour has not previously talked about expanding this sector.

The moves did not feature in Labour's recent education "mini manifesto" but are in the education chapter in the full version published on Wednesday.

At present Ofsted can identify failing schools - those requiring "special measures" - but a closure decision is taken by local or central government.

'Stress'

Labour's proposal seems to stem from its new policy of "putting parent power at the heart of the education system".

The manifesto says: "Ofsted now seeks the views of parents when undertaking inspections.

"Ofsted will be given new powers to respond to parental complaints and where necessary to close failing schools or replace failing management."

The Conservative approach would be to withdraw state funding from a failing school unless it agreed to be taken over.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Phil Willis said inspections already created a great deal of stress for heads and teachers.

"Giving parents the power to call in inspectors could lead to some unfortunate schools being constantly inspected. Giving Ofsted the right to close down schools and sack head teachers would increase stress and detract from teaching.

"Liberal Democrats want to scrap Ofsted and give schools the power to manage their own standards monitored by the Audit Commission, a truly independent, non-political body."

Boarding

The other surprise new element in the Labour manifesto is: "We will encourage more small schools and boarding schools as ways of helping the most disadvantaged children."

At present, 33 state schools in England and two in Wales have boarding facilities, for which fees are paid, though these are not for the "disadvantaged".

The manifesto also spells out - as the mini-manifesto noticeably did not - that Labour promises to spend a rising share of national income on education.





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