Tags: Headteacher | School Governance | School Governor | School Leadership & Management

The government is hoping that the concessions it has made to critics of its education white paper will be enough to get its new Education and Inspections Bill through parliament.

Concerns over the fairness of admissions have prompted the government to strengthen the legal status of the admissions code of practice so that admission authorities will have to ‘act in accordance’ with it rather than simply ‘have regard to’ it. Using interviews as part of the admission process will be banned in any maintained school and the bill also restates existing restrictions on selection by ability.

In another concession, local authorities will, after all, be allowed to open new community schools – although only with the approval of the secretary of state. The government had previously insisted that all new schools must follow its new ‘trust’ model. Curiously, the bill itself does not use the term ‘trust school’, confirming the conclusion of the Commons education committee that these were no more than an existing type of foundation school ‘rebranded’. Instead the bill sets out a new statutory procedure for foundation schools to acquire a foundation, which must be incorporated and a charity. To add to the confusion, the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, is continuing to refer to such charitable foundations as trusts and to their schools as trust schools.

Parental representation on the governing bodies of schools with a foundation will be reduced if the foundation chooses to take up its right to appoint the majority of governors, so the bill will oblige the school to set up a parent council in such a situation. The purpose of the council will be ‘to advise the governing body on matters relating to the conduct of the school, and the governing body’s exercise of their powers to provide community facilities etc’. Details of membership, meetings and procedures can be given in separate regulations.

The bill also imposes two new duties on the governing bodies of maintained schools. The first requires the governing body of a maintained school in England and Wales to have regard to any relevant Children and Young People’s Plan (CYPP) in exercising their functions in relation to the conduct of the school. The second which, like much of the bill, applies only to schools in England, requires governing bodies of maintained schools ‘to have regard to’ the views of parents of registered pupils.

Other clauses in the bill introduce a duty for schools to provide suitable full time education to temporarily excluded pupils and extend the use of voluntary parenting contracts to cases of misbehaviour where the pupil has not been excluded.

The bill also paves the way for the introduction of new healthier food standards in schools.

This article first appeared in School Governor Update – Apr 2006

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