Schools legislation labelled ‘charter for whingers’

Author: By Alison Kershaw, Press Association

The new Children, Schools and Families Bill will see the introduction of a set
of pupil and parent guarantees, setting out what each can expect from the
education system, and providing a means of redress if these expectations are
not met.

But the plans, outlined in the Queen’s Speech, have come under fire from
school leaders, who have warned it risks becoming a “whingers’ charter” for
litigious parents.

Under the guarantees parents will have the right to demand information about
their child’s performance and about their child’s school, closer involvement
with their child’s progress through a designated tutor, including regular
face-to-face meetings and more influence over their schools.

Pupils will be guaranteed a say on how their school is doing and how it can be
improved, and primary school children who are falling behind in English or
maths will get one-to-one help.

If a parent believe a school is failing to meet the guarantees they can
complain to the head, then to the local authority, and then to the Local
Government Ombudsman.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has previously admitted that if these avenues fail
to provide a resolution then a parent could take a school to court in the
form of a judicial review.

He insisted this would be a “last resort.”

But John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College
Leaders (ASCL) warned ahead of the speech: “School leaders are extremely
concerned that these ‘guarantees’ will turn into a whingers’ charter for the
more litigious parents to complain, first to the head, then to the
governors, then to the Local Government Ombudsman service, which has just
been created by last week’s new education act.

“This will create an immense amount of work for school leaders, who are
currently trying, with government encouragement, to create more productive
relationships with parents.”

The Bill also introduces the new “licence to teach” which will see teachers
undergo five-year check-ups to ensure they are fit to be in the classroom.

The National Union of Teachers have opposed the licence, with some 10,000
members signing postcards declaring they are against it.

The NUT said the measure is unnecessary, and there are already “too many hoops
for teachers to jump through.”

The legislation also confirms the introduction of a new curriculum for primary
schools, following on from Sir Jim Rose’s review earlier this year, and
makes Personal, Social, and Health Education (PSHE) a mandatory part of the
curriculum for all schools.

It means that all children will receive at least one year of sex education
before they reach 16.

All parents who choose to home educate their child will be forced to register
under the new legislation, and there are new rules to strengthen local
authorities’ powers to inspect and intervene to protect the most vulnerable
children.

It also states that there will be a review of the publication of information
relating to family court proceedings.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union said: “The
Government appears to take the view that, like handbags, you can never have
too many education bills.

“It’s a tight parliamentary timescale for a Bill which contains some important
provisions. Despite this there can be no compromise on getting the details
right.”

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