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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 October, 2004, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Holyrood passes new schools bill
School
Ministers are anxious that no child's schooling suffers
MSPs have passed new legislation giving ministers the power to intervene in failing schools.

Ministers will now be able to force local education authorities to act on the suggestions of inspector's reports under the School Education Bill.

Opposition parties claimed the law was a waste of time as no council had ever refused to act on a report.

But ministers insisted it was necessary to raise standards in schools and won the vote by 68 to 51.

Tougher standards

Ministers argued the controversial powers are needed to ensure no child's education suffers because of a council's refusal to make improvements.

The measures will also introduce tougher standards for independent schools before they can be registered.

First Minister Jack McConnell insisted the powers were needed by ministers and that parents will welcome the move.

We will shortly be unveiling the most comprehensive school modernisation programme for a generation
Peter Peacock
Education Minister

Education Minister Peter Peacock said the legislation would ensure failing schools are turned around.

He said: "Children have just one opportunity to benefit from their school education.

"We cannot allow the inaction of a school or council to ruin the life chances of any child.

"We will shortly be unveiling the most comprehensive school modernisation programme for a generation.

"This legislation gives us the platform to ensure all schools and councils play their part."

'Waste of time'

But opposition parties and councils claimed the crackdown was a gimmick and a "waste of time".

The Scottish National Party joined the Tories and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) to oppose the bill.

SNP education spokesman Adam Ingram said the new powers would lead to political interference in the Scottish school system.

We believe local authorities should have the right to respond effectively to their reports without political interference from on high at the behest of ministers
James Douglas Hamilton
Tory education spokesman

He said: "Given the scope for intervention ranges far beyond promoting the quality of school education, but to any matter relating to the school, it can easily be envisaged that ministers will yield to the temptation to interfere as political and departmental pressures are brought to bear."

Tory education spokesman James Douglas Hamilton added that if ministers were concerned about schools they should refer any matters back to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) and not vary any orders given by it.

He said: "We believe local authorities should have the right to respond effectively to their reports without political interference from on high at the behest of ministers."


SEE ALSO:
School powers plans are defended
05 May 04  |  Scotland
More school info to go on the web
11 Nov 03  |  Education
School league tables to be scrapped
25 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Tories reject league tables plans
25 Sep 03  |  Scotland
More staff teaching fewer pupils
26 Aug 03  |  Scotland
Call to scrap school league tables
27 Nov 02  |  Scotland
'Shared vision' for schools system
09 Oct 02  |  Scotland
Teachers say they are overworked
26 Jun 02  |  Scotland


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