I issued the following press release on 28.02.2006
EDUCATION AND INSPECTIONS BILL
ADMISSIONS CODE TO BE KEPT FROM MPs
On the day of the publication of the Education and Inspections Bill , Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, has made it clear that she has not been swayed in her opposition to key measures in the Government’s education reform programme. The MP said "The White Paper’s proposal to hand over control of our primary and secondary schools to business, religious and external educational groups has not been dropped in the Bill, so key objections, on accountability and the ability of the measures in the Bill to really address the existing inequality in education provision, remain."
The question of fair admissions exercises many Labour MPs, who are concerned about the social segregation caused by the current system. The Government promised that this would be addressed by requiring admissions authorities to have to ‘act in accordance’ with a Code of Practice. However, the Government have not said what will be in this Code and revealed today in their response to the Education Committee’s report on the education proposals that MPs will not be told what’s to be in the Code before they have to vote on the Bill.
Lynne Jones said:
"I am extremely concerned that the Government expects MPs to vote for this legislation without telling us what will be in the Admissions Code. How can MPs judge if admissions arrangements will be fair when we don’t know what they will be? Many Labour MPs want selection to stop completely and, now there is cross-party agreement that the 11+ belongs to a past era, it is difficult to comprehend why the Government is content to perpetuate the anomaly of selection for grammar schools."
Far from increasing community accountability of publicly-funded services, the proposals in the Bill remove the current accountable structure of local education authority schools with power devolved through local management. This gives parents more influence than under the proposed foundation trust arrangements, which have clearly not been devised in response to demand from either parents or schools as evidenced by the lack of demand since 1997 from schools to adopt the existing foundation trust status (the name given to the former Tories' grant maintained schools).
As for the idea that schools can benefit through partnerships with other organisations, this can already take place through current arrangements such as employment compacts with local employers and involvement of arts organisations as in creative partnerships. But, as the Education and Skills Select Committee pointed out: "No causal link has been demonstrated between external partners and the success of a school, or between the independence of a school from local authority control and its success".
Part 1 of the Bill gives local authorities the duty to promote diversity and choice in the provision of schools. However, diversity of itself does not promote choice when schools are able to discriminate on grounds of faith or select on the basis of ability or aptitude, as well as in other more subtle ways. What's more, as the Audit Commission, the independent body charged with checking that the Government spend our money effectively and efficiently, has warned: "Inevitably, one parent’s ability to exercise choice potentially denies another’s".
Lynne Jones said: "Even at this stage, I hope that the Government will look at different ideas for raising standards and securing a better social mix in our schools. Though there is already provision on an ad hoc basis for additional funds to go to assist pupils who have fallen behind in key subjects, these do not go as far as the funding reforms suggested by Tim Brighouse, London Schools Commissioner (and former head of Birmingham LEA)."
The Brighouse proposal is to reform the funding system by introducing a simple entitlement per capita for pupils entering secondary schools based on their prior attainment on entry. A higher rate would go to those with the lowest attainment. Lynne Jones supported the idea stating "Schools would then have incentives to assist those who need most help as well as those who are going to ‘deliver’ high league table results." "I share the Prime Minister's wish to raise standards in our poorer performing schools and to challenge the rest to achieve even more but I do not believe the structural changes in the Bill will deliver on these aims."
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