Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by Westminster City Council (E 82)

Introduction:

The Education Bill introduced to Parliament on the 26th January 2011 outlined a number of changes to the current system of education provision. These changes profoundly alter the role of the local authority in education provision and firmly articulate the Coalition’s ambition to see all new schools established independently of the local authority where possible. Here in Westminster we welcome this approach and welcome the removal of a number of bureaucratic requirements imposed on schools from the centre which stop teachers focusing on their main occupation; teaching.

The majority of the proposed changes in the Bill are to be welcomed, particularly the:

· The repeal of the diploma entitlement for 16-18 year olds and the fourth key stage

· The streamlining of matters to be covered on a school inspection report

· Powers of members of staff to search pupils and the restrictions on reporting alleged offences by teachers

· Repeal of requirement to give notice of detention to parents

· Abolition of a number of the General Teaching Council and the Young People’s Learning Agency

Rather than covering every reform outlined in the Bill, Westminster City Council’s detailed responses are limited to where we feel the need for greater clarity and/or areas of disagreement. We will also be outlining our wider appeal for additional funding for Westminster schools owing the unique pressures placed on them through high-levels of short term migration.

Appendix A is an extract from a Westminster City Council Cabinet (28 th March 2011) report outlining the position of the council with regard to the current changes being proposed in the Education Bill and our support for the direction of the Coalition Government in introducing parental choice and greater freedoms into the current education system.

Section 1

– Issues and Amendments

Part 1 of the Bill – Early Years Provision

1.1 Westminster City Council welcomes the content of this part of the Bill.

Part 2 of the Bill – Discipline

1.2 Westminster City Council welcomes the content of this part of the Bill.

Part 3 of the Bill – School Workforce

1.3 The abolition of unelected quangos and unnecessary tiers of bureaucracy is to be welcomed, however there does need to be some supplementary safeguards put in place to ensure standards are upheld and appropriate timescales are guaranteed in some instances, for example the investigation of disciplinary cases, which are now under the provision of the Secretary of State following the abolition of the General Teaching Council (GTC).

Part 4 of the Bill – Qualifications and the Curriculum

1.4 The requirement for schools to participate in surveys should be determined by the appropriate governing body depending on the denomination of the school concerned. It is contradictory to the premise of educational autonomy and localism to have this measure dictated centrally through the Secretary of State and we would seek to have this measure removed.

1.5 We welcome the need for schools to provide appropriate and tailored careers advice for young people, as outlined in Part 4, 27:42A, however would recommend the details of this service are developed by the school, rather than being determined, as is the case in the proposed legislation, through central government.

Part 5 of the Bill – Educational Institutions: Other Provisions

1.6 The removal of the need for all schools to appoint a school improvement partner for all schools they maintain is broadly welcomed by Westminster City Council as it allows highly-performing schools to be independent and focus on the quality of teaching they are providing our children and young people and welcome the safeguards put in place to allow the Secretary of State and the local authority to initiate inspections for exempt schools where a number of concerns are raised.

1.7 Whilst this change is to be welcomed, it should be recognised that this change will fundamentally alter the role of the local authority in education provision. Here in Westminster we see the future role of the local authority as becoming a commissioning organisation, able to have a strategic oversight of education provision across the borough and secure choice and competition across Westminster.

1.8 It is welcomed that exempt schools can be inspected if requested to do so by the Secretary of State or by the local authority. We welcome the requirement that the Chief Inspector carries out an inspection of a school under subsection (2), "exempt schools", if requested to do so by the appropriate authority for the school, or indeed by the Secretary of State. We would seek further clarification however as to how the re-charging element of this inspection would work in practice. We would recommend that should a school have been downgraded in the Ofsted ratings as a result of a local-authority initiated inspection that the local authority should not be charged for such an inspection as their belief that standards are slipping has been proven correct.

Part 6 of the Bill – Academies

1.9 Westminster City Council welcomes the content of this part of the Bill.

Part 7 of the Bill – Post 16 Education and Training

1.20 Westminster City Council welcomes the content of this part of the Bill

Part 8 of the Bill – Student Finance

1.21 Westminster City Council welcomes the content of this part of the Bill.

Section 2

– The unique pressures faced by Westminster Schools

In Westminster schools face significant pressures due to the number of short term migrants coming through the borough. Westminster had the highest number (63,000) of short-term migrants of any Local Authority in England and Wales by a considerable margin according to data published by the ONS in 2009. The number of migrants, both those coming in from abroad and those moving from within the country, create an annual churn of some 30% presenting unique and complex service pressures. These pressures place a significant strain on a number of services, particularly schools who face a constant churn of pupils, many of whom have English as a second language and often have not had any formal education.

We would seek these pressures to be formally acknowledged in the Education Bill and explicit financial measures to mitigate against these pressures considered by the Bill Committee. Financial instruments that would assist in counteracting these additional pressures include a widening of the threshold for the pupil premium, or an additional fund attached to those children entering the country and requiring a state education. The free schools meal indicator for the pupil premium is a blunt instrument. It is too narrow and Westminster City Council would argue that the multiple pressures caused by the needs of migrants (including deprivation, EAL and mobility factors) ought to be included for the Pupil Premium basis in the future.

Section 3

– Conclusion

The role of the local authority in education provision is changing fundamentally. We welcome the direction of the Government in moving towards the local authority as a strategic commissioner of education services and accept that strong leadership from head teachers and governors is the best way to secure high educational standards, supported by transparency of information to parents.

Although increasing the range of provision supports improvement, Westminster City Council is aware that children only get one chance of a good education and it must become the council’s responsibility to secure choice so as parents and carers are able to make informed decisions about their children’s education.

Section 4

– Policy position paper on the future of the education authority

(Extract from a Westminster City Council Cabinet Paper: 28/03/11)

The following statements summarise the position of the council with regard to the changing system of education provision in light of the Education Bill.

Free Schools and Academies

The expansion of the free school movement provides a welcome diversification in the provision of education, leading to increased choice and an improvement of educational standards through the value of competition.

Westminster City Council is therefore supportive of free schools in principle and seeks to support invitations for free schools across the borough where they are appropriate and based on a sound business case.

It is crucial therefore that free schools are established in areas where there is projected rising demand for school places and/or the need to improve the quality of education in the area.

The Future of education in Westminster

In Westminster we want an excellent education system that provides our children and young people with the learning and support they need to secure jobs at this difficult time.

In the coming year we will:

· Improve educational attainment.

This coming year we will continue to support schools to raise attainment across the board, through investment in schools and targeted support at those schools most in need. This will include an investment of £60,000 in every secondary school in the borough to help them achieve our target of 75% of schools achieving 5 A-C grades at GCSE, including English and Maths. This target will have seen an increase from 50% and will provide our children and young people with the necessary qualifications they need to succeed in the challenging working world.

· Maximise investment and resources in the frontline

Through our ground breaking shared services agenda with partner authorities Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea we will strip out duplications in services and reduce senior management costs helping us protect our front–line services.

In the coming year we will also be working hard to obtain a fair funding settlement for Westminster schools. Here in Westminster our schools face considerable pressures as a result of a high birth rate and a high level of short term migration into the area. Over 75% of primary school pupils speak English as a second language and we have high levels of secondary migration via the European Union. These factors place considerable pressures on our schools across the borough. We will continue to make the case to Government in the coming year to ensure that our schools receive a fair funding deal that reflects the pressures and challenges they face.

· Target our services at those children and young people who are most in need

The success of our Integrated Locality Services in delivering effective early intervention is now evident. Numbers of children in care have dropped by 15% since the start of 2010 and we will continue to invest in this cost-effective early intervention work, this will include providing a child protection and looked after children service to approximately 250 of our most vulnerable children. Targeting services more efficiently at those children and young people most in need will keep families together, support parenting and reduce the need for higher cost services in the longer term.

· Remove bureaucracy to allow our childcare professionals to focus on improving the lives of our most vulnerable children and young people

As a pilot authority for the Munro Review of Child Protection, in the coming year, we will seek to remove the bureaucracy and regulations surrounding the childcare profession, making sure that our professionals are able to focus on the needs of children without being strangled by unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.

· Increase parental choice and competition in education

With the expansion of the academies programme and the introduction of free schools the arena of education provision is changing fundamentally. Here in Westminster we will continue to support the new and emerging options available to teachers, parents and carers to improve the quality of education our children receive.

Future role of the local authority in education provision

The role of the local authority is fundamentally changing. We see the future role of the local authority as becoming a commissioning organisation, able to have a strategic oversight of education provision across the borough and secure choice and competition across Westminster.

The Education Bill makes a number of fundamental changes to the role of the local authority including:

- The removal of the need for local authorities to appoint a school improvement partner for all schools they maintain

- Removal of local authority and community representation on school governing bodies

- The requirement that new schools only be placed under the control of the local authority when all other options have been exhausted.

In light of the Education Bill we will continue to seek further clarity as to the role of the local authority in education provision, owing to the diversity of providers now in the market.

March 2011