Queen's Speech: 'Coasting' schools improvement plan

By Sean Coughlan
Education correspondent

  • Published
Nicky MorganImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Nicky Morgan has signalled a further increase in the number of academies

A more rapid intervention for underperforming schools in England is expected to be announced in the government's legislative plans.

The Queen's Speech will set out how standards can be raised in so-called "coasting schools".

The Conservatives have also promised to double the free childcare for working parents of three and four-year-olds.

Labour's Tristram Hunt said a more pressing issue for school standards was "the quality of classroom teaching".

An education bill will set out plans for an accelerated way of improving struggling schools in England and changing their leadership.

This is likely to see more schools becoming academies - and last week Education Secretary Nicky Morgan launched the drive to encourage the setting up of a further 500 free schools.

The proposals expected in the Queen's Speech will call for higher standards in schools in the Ofsted category of "requires improvement" - which is below those judged as "good", but above those rated as "inadequate".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Tristram Hunt says there needs to be a stronger focus on teaching standards

Schools which are failing to make progress would have to work with expert advisers or bring in another high-achieving school as a sponsor.

If a "coasting school" does not show improvement the governing body could be replaced and the school turned into an academy.

"Where it is clear that a school does not have the capacity or the plan to get themselves out of 'requires improvement'. . . then, yes, we will intervene, we will put in support... and of course we will look at the academy model too," Mrs Morgan has said of the government's proposals.

Head teachers have complained about the negative language being used about schools and the National Union of Teachers has argued that there is no evidence that academies are more likely to improve than other schools.

Free childcare

There is also expected to be a step towards doubling the amount of free childcare for working parents of three and four-year-olds from 2017, increasing from 15 to 30 hours per week.

The government's plans for the next Parliament are also expected to include measures to speed up the adoption process in England.

Children can spend months in care waiting for adoptive parents to be found.

And in an attempt to get a wider range of possible adoptive parents, the government wants councils to work together and have a less localised approach.

Labour's shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said of the expected plans for schools: "Labour supports having the option of converting coasting schools to academy status and the devolution of school improvement decisions away from Whitehall.

"But unlike the Tories we realise that raising standards and tackling underperformance requires far more.

"We need from government a much stronger focus upon raising the quality of classroom teaching, greater collaboration between schools at a local level and better support for head teachers so standards stay high."