Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about the Education Bill.
The Bill doesn’t make changes to the National Curriculum. Ministers have separately launched a systematic and comprehensive review of the National Curriculum in England for 5-16 year olds, as set out in the Coalition Agreement.
The EBacc is an achievement measure and does not require legislation.
The EBacc will not be a new qualification in itself. The EBacc recognises the success of those students who attain GCSEs or iGCSEs at grade A*-C across a core of academic subjects – English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language. It aims to increase the opportunities for all young people – especially those in disadvantaged areas – to study these subjects.
The best outcome for all parties is most often achieved if complaints can be resolved quickly at a school level. Schools will continue to be required to have their own complaints procedure in place to achieve this as often as possible. In cases where issues cannot be resolved at school level, it is right that parents and children should have access to redress. The proposals in the Education Bill will ensure parents in every local authority have the right to ask the Secretary of State to consider complaints arising from schools. He will retain the power to intervene where a governing body is acting or proposing to act unreasonably in the exercise of its education functions, or is in breach of a statutory duty.
All schools will continue to have to comply with the School Admissions Code. Local authorities will play a strong role in ensuring fair admissions in their area, including through their annual report on admissions arrangements to their local communities.
The changes proposed through this Bill will ensure parents will be able to refer an objection about admissions arrangements, including arrangements for Academies, to the Schools Adjudicator, when the issue can not be resolved locally.
The Bill removes the prescriptive duty on local authorities to establish an Admission Forum for the area, but they can still be convened voluntarily if the local authority and local parents find it useful. It will mean that local communities are free to implement the best systems for their area. Admission Forums do not have the power to make decisions on complaints about admissions – but some local authorities value them as a way of resolving issues at a local level.
The Bill will make no changes in this area. Parents retain the right to appeal against the refusal of any school place.
Ofsted will continue to report on a range of measures of school quality, now focused on four important core areas. The Bill (clause 40) redefines the areas that the Chief Inspector must report on as part of ‘routine’ school inspections. It focuses reporting on four key areas: pupil achievement; quality of teaching; leadership and management; and behaviour and safety. Inspectors will spend more of their time concentrating on the core areas around teaching and achievement.
These statutory reporting areas underpin Ofsted’s non-statutory school inspection framework. Under Ofsted’s current framework inspectors make at least 27 separate judgements during a (maximum) two day visit. This number will be significantly reduced in future.
The Bill allows schools and colleges to decide for themselves locally how to work co-operatively with other organisations such as local authorities. The Bill (clause 30) removes the duty on schools and colleges to engage with Children’s Trust partnership arrangements; it does not abolish Children’s Trusts. It will not stop schools or colleges from choosing, with local authorities, to continue being part of Children’s Trusts, if they so wish.
We are only removing schools and colleges from the duty. The duty will continue to be on other ‘relevant partners’ such as local authorities and health services to continue to co-operate.
Schools and colleges are required to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under section 157 and section 175 of the Education Act 2002. There are no plans to remove or relax those requirements.
The provisions in the Bill (clauses 30 and 31) do not prevent schools and colleges from working co-operatively with other front line services for children. They will be free to develop the type of partnerships which make most sense locally and help them to raise standards for all children.
Land is dealt with in Schedule 13. In respect of land at maintained schools, it largely re-enacts and extends existing powers and contains few entirely new powers. In particular, the power to make a scheme to transfer local authority owned land to an Academy was originally introduced in 2000.
Land that continues to be used for the purposes of the school is not affected by these provisions. It is only when the school closes, or itself wishes to become an Academy, or the school or local authority themselves consider that some of the land is not needed for the school, that the Secretary of State's powers to direct the transfer of the land to an Academy come into effect. It is right that in these circumstances all the options should be considered. Local authorities, governing bodies and trusts will have the opportunity to make their case for use of surplus land, but we shall balance this against the extension of choice offered by free schools and Academies. If a transfer were directed by the Secretary of State, the provisions require that appropriate compensation would be paid for any private interest in the land.
There is no extension of control over wholly private land. Arrangements there are largely a matter for agreement between the private landowner and the Academy Trust. The schedule does make new provision for the protection of public investment in land used by Academies, which is necessary given the growth of the Academies programme.
Free Schools will not be given a grant to buy land and buildings; if necessary, they will be acquired by the Department and then transferred to the Free School. We would not generally expect to buy land and buildings from local authorities or public bodies to establish a free school. Instead, we would look to lease them at peppercorn rents.
To ensure that the public investment is protected, the Bill provides the Secretary of State with certain powers to make directions in respect of the future ownership of such publicly funded land once it is no longer required by the existing Free School (either because the school no longer needs the land or it is closing).
In relation to land owned by a local authority and used for the purposes of a school in the last eight years, but which will no longer be needed by the school, the Education Bill provides the Secretary of State with the power, introduced under the previous Government in respect of community school land, to make a scheme transferring the land to an Academy (including a Free School).
At present, schools are not able to vary the charges they make for the same quantity of the same item of food (unless they apply for a Power to Innovate Order, which can take many months of planning and paperwork to obtain). Clause 35 will allow schools to make special meal offers to groups of pupils, for example, for a limited period when they start at a new school, as an incentive to try school lunches and begin the habit of eating nutritious meals that meet the school food standards. The Clause safeguards pupils not included in a special offer by preventing the school from charging more than the cost of providing the meal. Use of flexible charging is entirely optional and will involve a local decision to subsidise meals during the offer period.
Authorities that have piloted using discount incentives have found there are significant benefits to be gained from their investment, seeing an increased take up of lunches.
A large number of schools offer early years education – the maintained sector provides 57 per cent of all free early years education provided under the ‘three and four-year-old entitlement’ (to fifteen hours free early years education for 38 weeks a year).
Currently, except in certain circumstances, these schools cannot charge for any early years education that they choose to provide over and above the fifteen hours free provision – this means that in a lot of cases, the school doesn’t offer more than fifteen hours. Primary legislation is already in place to allow the Government to make Regulations to lift the prohibition and allow schools to charge for this additional service – it would add early years education to the list of ‘optional extras’ that a school can provide and charge for, like entry for certain public examinations, or board and lodging provided on residential trips. We intend to make these Regulations, to give nursery schools (and schools with nursery classes) the ability to charge for early years education they provide over and above the entitlement to fifteen hours.
The Bill itself just makes two technical changes to how this charging can operate:
The Bill does not allow schools to charge for early years education that is part of the three and four-year-old entitlement (or the new two-year-old entitlement for disadvantaged children), and does not require schools to charge – it is a permissive measure.
By enabling schools the freedom to charge for early years provision, this Government will be creating greater choice for parents. Maintained schools offering additional hours and recovering the full costs through charging will give parents a greater choice about the type, quality and flexibility of early years provision that they can take up for their child. It also supports the sustainability of school-based early years provision, and gives schools greater choice in what they offer.
No, the Bill makes no changes to the requirements on local authorities with respect to childcare; they still have the same duty to secure childcare that they do now.
We have made the system more progressive so that the highest earners will be making a full contribution to the costs of the system, helping to make it more affordable for Government, but still incurring interest at a rate which is not higher than that prevailing on the market.
Those high earners who pay back in full and pay a higher rate of interest will enable the Government to offer more protection to those that do not go on to earn high wages or have periods out of employment, and to write-off all outstanding loan balances after 30 years.
Overall, the graduate contribution system will continue to cost the Government money - around 30 pence in every pound.