UK Politics

MPs vote to back government's school shake-up plans

MPs have backed the government's Education Bill, which ministers say will "restore discipline and reduce bureaucracy" in schools.

It calls for head teachers to get more powers to search and exclude pupils, fewer inspections of successful schools and help to create more academies.

The bill, applying to England, also says high-earning graduates should pay more interest on student loans.

The Commons supported it by 324 votes to 244 - a majority of 80.

The bill will now be looked at in greater detail by MPs as it continues its passage through Parliament.

During the debate, Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "I believe that the time is now right for this House to send an unambiguous signal to the professionals who work so hard on our behalf in the nation's classrooms that we back them and that we will give them the tools they need in order to keep order."

He called for an end to the "culture of 'know your place' and denying opportunity".

'Gamble'

"This bill provides an historic opportunity for this country. It will help guarantee every child a high-quality education which will equip them for the technological, economic, social and cultural challenges of the next century," he added.

For Labour, shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said: "We are witnessing an unseemly rush to reform where the normal processes of government are simply ditched.

"No pilots, no evidence, no consultations, no time taken to listen to parents or children, consult teachers and build a broad consensus in the country that should properly underpin any education reform.

"It represents too big a gamble with the life chances of our children."

Under the plans, head teachers would get increased powers to search pupils for pornography, mobile telephones and any other banned items. They would have more control over the disciplining of those who misbehave on the way to or from school.

Appeals panels would no longer be able to force schools to re-instate pupils they have expelled, while teachers accused of misconduct by children would be granted anonymity while proceedings are ongoing.

Schools would also be able to impose a detention without having to give 24 hours' notice.

The bill says that, if councils believe there is a need for a new school in their area, they "must seek proposals for the establishment of an academy" - an independent school directly funded by central government.

It would allow special schools and pupil referral units - for children who have been expelled from mainstream schools - to become academies and sets out the conditions for faith schools to take on this status.

The legislation also gives the education secretary more powers to ensure there is land available to build academies and free schools.

In addition, it raises the cap on interest rates on student loans so that, from 2012, graduates who earn more than £41,000 a year can be charged interest of inflation plus 3%.

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