At-a-glance: Education Bill

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More details of plans to overhaul England's schools system are set out in an Education Bill.

The main changes being brought in range from behaviour policy to examinations, and from academies and free schools to the cutting of quangos.

BEHAVIOUR

The government says it will "increase the authority of teachers to discipline pupils" through:

  • Increasing their powers to search pupils for objects which could be dangerous or cause harm
  • Pornography and mobile phones added to the list of items schools can search for
  • Schools told they can search for anything they have banned
  • Teachers given the right to anonymity if they are accused by pupils to protect them from false accusations
  • Scrapping of the need for schools to have to give 24 hours' notice of detentions
  • Scrapping of need for parents to sign a "behaviour and attendance partnership" with schools

EXCLUSIONS

Appeals panels are no longer allowed to tell schools to reinstate a pupil who has been expelled, but they can ask them to reconsider their decision.

If a school is found to have wrongly excluded a pupil, they may be told by the appeals panel to fund the alternative education of the pupil.

OFSTED

From September 2011, outstanding schools and sixth form colleges will not face routine checks by England's schools inspectors Ofsted. Schools which are inspected will be looked at in four main areas instead of the existing 27 separate categories:

  • pupil achievement
  • quality of teaching
  • leadership and management
  • behaviour and safety of pupils.

Within this, the bill says, inspectors have to consider the "spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils" and how well the school meets the needs of the range of pupils - especially those with a disability or special educational needs.

EXAMS

England's exams regulator Ofqual is being asked to measure qualifications against those used in other parts of the world.

It also takes on the duty of making sure the qualifications it approves "give a reliable indication of knowledge, skills and understanding" and that standards are maintained over time and between different "comparable qualifications".

This means Ofqual will need to determine whether certain exams deserve to be said to be equivalent to a GCSE for example, or that the work level involved in a particular GCSE is the same as in another.

ACADEMIES AND FREE SCHOOLS

Most of the legal changes needed for the expansion of the academies programme and to allow groups to set up free schools were passed in the Academies Act, which went through Parliament in the summer.

But the Education Bill will allow special schools, sixth forms and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) - also to become academies. PRUs often teach children who have been expelled from mainstream schools and others, including teenage mothers.

The government wants to encourage new groups to run such units, including charities and free schools.

The bill also says where a council believes a new school is needed for its area, it should "seek proposals for the establishment of an academy".

QUANGOS

The government is scrapping several education quangos and the bill sets out the transfer of duties and powers for some of them.

The secretary of state takes on the responsibility for the training of teachers; for investigating claims of misconduct against teachers and the power to ban them from working in schools.

The Bill says the secretary of state will keep a list of people banned from teaching and that "this must be available for inspection by the public".

DIPLOMAS

Local councils no longer have to make sure children have access to these qualifications, which were designed to bridge the gap between academic and work-related learning.

SCHOOL LEAVING AGE

Proposals first put forward under the Labour government to raise the school leaving age to 18 are in the bill. By 2015, all children will be expected to stay in education or training until the age of 18.

The new government says pupils who do leave school earlier will not however, face criminal sanctions, which they said had been suggested by Labour.

STUDENT LOANS

In surprise move, the government has put a clause in the Education Bill to charge high-earning graduates a higher rate of interest on their student loans than others.

From 2012, graduates who earn more than £41,000 a year can be charged interest of inflation plus 3%.

The measure was unexpectedly put in to the bill so it would be in place in time for the introduction of the new funding system for universities - and higher fees.

Such a change would have been expected to be in a Higher Education Bill - but that is not now due until later in the spring.

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