Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by Save the Children (E 21)


1 Introduction

1.1 Save the Children works in more than 120 countries. We save children’s lives. We fight for their rights. We help them fulfil their potential.

1.2 In the UK Save the Children works to ensure that the rights of children are protected, promoted and respected in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other international human rights instruments. We believe no child should have their childhood experiences or life chances damaged by living in poverty.

1.3 This memorandum sets out Save the Children’s position on particular clauses of the Education Bill.

2 Save the Children’s summary positions on the Bill

2.1 We welcome the government’s commitment to close the educational achievement gap and the fact that the government has presented its educational reforms as specifically designed with this objective in mind. It is absolutely critical that the Education Bill helps raise the attainment of all children and ensures those from disadvantaged homes get the support they need to realise their potential. Each proposal must be viewed through the lens of whether it improves opportunities for children from disadvantaged homes.

2.2 Free of charge early years provision (Clauses 1): The decision to provide extended free of charge early years provision for deprived 2 year olds whilst retaining the universal offer for 3 and 4 year olds is very welcome but we must also increase the quality of education and care. Regulations should stipulate that all local authorities publish, on an annual basis, the proportion of free early years places for 2 year olds from disadvantaged homes that have been taken up in good or outstanding settings. This should be underpinned by a government ambition to make sure all places for 2 year olds are in good or outstanding settings by the end of this parliament.

2.3 Duties in relation to school admissions (Clause 34): Local authorities must be able to hold schools accountable for not admitting a reasonable number of pupils from the poorest homes. The School Admissions Code should encourage local authorities to raise any concerns they have that a reasonable number of pupils from low-income homes are not being admitted to a particular school with the governing body.

2.4 School inspections (Clauses 39 and 40): The Chief Inspector’s report must include the extent to which the education provided at the school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school, and in particular the needs of - (i) pupils who have a disability (ii) pupils who have special educational needs (iii) pupils from low-income homes (iv) children in care. There must be clear mechanisms whereby inspections can be triggered in Ofsted exempt schools in the event of dips in performance or new data showing children from low-income homes are not progressing or achieving at an outstanding level.

2.5 Charging for early years education (Clause 47): We would like to see a fuller impact assessment showing exactly how many maintained nurseries that currently offer more than 15 hours of free care are expected to do so after implementation of the Early Years Single Funding Formula and new powers to charge.


3. Free of charge early years provision (Clauses 1)

3.1 Clause 1 enables regulations to retain the universal 15 hour offer for 3 and 4 year olds whilst extending the requirement on local authorities to secure free early years provision for disadvantaged 2 year olds. This extension is very welcome.

3.2 To ensure this has the most positive impact on children’s outcomes we must continue to improve the quality of education and care. As acknowledged on page 10 of the Bill’s Impact Assessment [1] , there could be insufficient availability of high quality childcare, especially since provision is generally poorer in deprived areas. With this in mind it is absolutely vital that local authorities are supported and incentivised to raise the quality of provision and are asked to publish the proportion of places that have been taken up in good or outstanding settings.

3.3 The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education Project has shown that disadvantaged children benefit significantly from good quality pre-school and that high-quality pre-school is linked to better intellectual and social / behavioural development for children. [2]

3.4 Save the Children is seeking clear assurances from the Minister during the House of Commons’ Committee Stage that a) local authorities will be asked to publish the proportion of free early years places for 2 year olds taken up in good or outstanding settings and b) government will work with local authorities to ensure every place is in a good or outstanding setting by the end of this parliament.

4. Proposals on surveys and qualifications (Clauses 20 and 22)

4.1 Save the Children welcomes the requirement in Clause 20 that an adequate sample of schools participate in international education surveys (PISA, TIMMS, PIRLS, TALIS). This will help us compare our performance with other countries, providing important whole-system accountability and clear benchmarks against which to assess standards. However we must ensure the impact on participating schools - in terms of increased administration or impact on the curriculum - is carefully monitored and handled.

4.2 Save the Children welcomes Ofqual’s new qualifications standards objective (Clause 22). This could help ensure a) the consistency of qualifications over time and b) that our qualifications are comparable with those offered outside the UK. Rigorous evidence on standards is essential to maintaining public trust in education systems.

5. Duties to cooperate with the local authority and to have regard to children and young people’s plan (Clauses 30 and 31)

5.1 Save the Children notes with concern Clause 30, which repeals the duty on schools to co-operate with their local authority, and Clause 31, which repeals the duty to have regard to a children and young people’s plan. The ethos of collaboration and partnership must not be lost in the drive to promote school freedoms and localism.

5.2 A child’s wider environment influences their capacity to aspire and attain and the poorest children are likely to benefit most from multi-agency working. To this end schools need to forge strong partnerships with parents and local services, including health and children’s services professionals, to effectively improve the outcomes of their pupils. Schools should be supported to learn from one another on the best ways to develop and harness these external relationships.

6. Duties in relation to school admissions (Clause 34).

6.1 Local authorities should be encouraged to hold schools accountable for not admitting a reasonable number of pupils from poor homes. This specific social justice objective is insufficiently clear in the existing School Admissions Code.

6.2 Clause 34 repeals local authority duties in relation to school admissions. Subsection (2) (a) removes the requirement to establish an admissions forum and subsection (4) repeals the need to prepare admissions reports for the schools adjudicator. Whilst we understand the rationale for removing these duties we are concerned the result might be to weaken school accountability for fair admissions. We therefore propose that the School Admissions Code should encourage local authorities to raise any concerns they have that a reasonable number of pupils from low-income homes are not being admitted to a particular school with the school’s governing body.

6.3 To build on this we also want the government to give all schools the right to prioritise the poorest children in admissions through amendments to the School Admissions Code.

6.4 Page 1 of the Bill’s Equalities Impact Assessment rightly says that we have one of the most stratified and segregated school systems in the world. Save the Children seeks detail from the Minister during the House of Commons’ Committee Stage on how schools will be held to account for their intakes.

7. School inspections (Clauses 39 and 40)

7.1 The school inspection system must focus more clearly on the specific impact of schools in improving the life chances of children from poor homes. This principle has recently been emphasised by both the author of the government’s Poverty and Life Chances Review and the government’s social mobility adviser.

The Department for Education should ensure schools are held to account for reducing the attainment gap in the same way they are for improving overall attainment. Where a school has a persistent or increasing attainment gap, this should have a significant bearing on the inspection for the school.

Frank Field, Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances, 2010, Page 8

In the case of schools, for example, it would mean holding them to account not just for improving standards - raising the bar - but also for narrowing the attainment gap.

Alan Milburn, speech to Progress and the Helena Kennedy Foundation, 25 January 2011

7.2 Clause 39 amends the current requirement, under section 8 of the Education Act 2005, for each school to be inspected and reported on at prescribed intervals and provides for regulations to make some schools exempt.

7.3 Save the Children believes exempt schools must have an outstanding record of supporting the poorest pupils to realise their potential (not simply high average attainment). There must be mechanisms to monitor not just overall performance at exempt schools but also the progress and achievements of those from poor homes; so inspections can be triggered if there are dips in attainment or progress.

7.4 Clause 40 establishes matters to be covered in the Chief Inspector’s report. We are pleased these reports will consider the extent to which education provided at a school meets the needs of the range of pupils at the school. It is crucial that the extent to which the education provided meets the needs of low-income pupils and children in care (those who are eligible for the full Pupil Premium) are specific requirements of the Chief Inspector's report.

7.5 The extent to which the education provided at a school meets the needs of pupils who have a disability and pupils who have special educational needs is a specific requirement of the Chief Inspector’s report (Clause 40, subsection 5B of the Education Act 2005). The Bill's explanatory notes for Clause 40 specifically refer to pupils eligible for the Pupil Premium as well as children with special educational needs and disabled children so it is strange that on the face of the Bill only the latter two groups are mentioned. Given the very welcome way the debate on the government’s education reforms has been framed in terms of narrowing the attainment gap, we think it is an anomaly that children from low-income homes and children in care are not specifically mentioned in Clause 40.

7.6 We also want to see the attainment of children from disadvantaged homes hardwired into the school accountability system. New columns showing the performance of Pupil Premium pupils should be added to each existing performance indicator within School Achievement and Attainment Tables. This blanket publication of how the poorest children are doing across measures will avoid separate indicators that could push schools in conflicting directions (such as a Pupil Premium measure alongside an English Baccalaureate measure).

7.7 Save the Children would like to see an amendment to the Bill requiring that the Chief Inspector consider in particular the extent to which the education provided at a school meets the needs of pupils from low-income homes and children in care.

7.8 Save the Children also seeks assurances that no school will be judged outstanding unless disadvantaged children are deemed by the Chief Inspector to be making outstanding progress.

8. Charging for early years education (Clause 47)

8.1 Clause 47 permits nursery schools and schools with nursery classes to charge for additional nursery education beyond the free entitlement.

8.2 Save the Children is concerned this might reduce the number of hours some of the poorest children are able to access (particularly those from families not benefiting from the childcare element of Working Tax Credit).

8.3 We would like to see a fuller impact assessment on proposals to allow charges for early years education beyond the free entitlement, showing exactly how many nurseries currently offer more than 15 hours free care and are not expected to do so after implementation of the Early Years Single Funding Formula and the right to charge.

February 2011


[1] Overarching Impact Assessment for the Education Bill 2011, Page 10, www.education.gov.uk

[2] The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education Project, http://eppe.ioe.ac.uk

[2]