Ed Balls announces new “licence to teach” and report cards for schools

July 1, 2009 at 5:02 pm 1 comment

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by Tony Grew

The Secretary of State for Children has announced new plans for schools in a statement to the Commons.

In response to a point of order after the statement on 21st century schools the Speaker said that Ed Balls had not breached his ruling that ministers had to make important announcements to the House before the media.

Mr Balls told MPs:

“I am today publishing our 21st century schools White Paper, based on new guarantees for pupils and parents; a significant devolution of power and responsibility to our school leaders, matched by strengthened school accountability; and an uncompromising approach to school improvement, because we want every child to succeed and we will never give up on any child.”

The headline proposals are:

– A pupil guarantee, to ensure: that all young people get a broad and balanced curriculum and high-quality qualifications, whether their strengths are practical, academic or both; that every secondary pupil has a personal tutor; that all pupils get five hours of PE and sport every week and access to cultural activities; that gifted and talented pupils get written confirmation of the extra challenge and support that they will receive; that all pupils with additional needs get extra help, with 4,000 extra dyslexia teachers; and that all pupils in years 3 to 6 who are falling behind in English or maths get one-to-one tuition to help them to get back on track.

– All parents get regular online information about their child’s progress, behaviour and attendance. It will also ensure access to their child’s personal tutor and fair school admissions in line with the admissions code, as well as ensuring that parents’ views will be listened to and reported in the school report card, so that all parents know what other parents think when choosing a school.

– Legislation to strengthen home-school agreements, so that all pupils and parents will accept the school’s rules when they apply for a school place and will be expected to sign up to renew their commitment every year; schools will have stronger powers to enforce discipline through intensive support, parenting contracts and parenting orders; and parents will have the right to complain and expect action if schools fail to act to enforce the home-school agreement.

– Making teaching a masters-level profession, and we will now introduce a new licence to teach, similar to that used by other high-status professionals such as doctors and lawyers. Teachers will need to keep their practice up to date to renew their licence, and they will be given a new entitlement for continued professional development.

– A new school report card that will include full information on school attainment. It will set out clearly for parents how the school is improving standards and how well it is helping those pupils who fall behind to catch up and stretching the most able. The school report card will also report on discipline, attendance, sport, healthy eating and partnership working, and set out what parents and pupils think of the school.

Michael Gove, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Families and Schools, said the White Paper “is about as original, fresh and innovative as the Secretary of State’s performances on the BBC’s “Today” programme.”

Mr Gove claimed there was nothing new in the statement.

“The Secretary of State pledges to guarantee a whole series of high-falutin’ promises on better discipline and higher standards, and says that he will legislate to ensure that every school delivers its legal obligation,” Mr Gove said.

“Is it not the case, however, that every time this Government have introduced a law saying that something wonderful must be delivered, it is only because they have demonstrably failed to deliver that goal in the last 12 years?

“We have a new law saying that child poverty must be abolished by 2020, because the Government have failed to hit their target of halving child poverty by 2010.

“We also have a new law compelling public bodies to promote equality, because this Government have presided over a catastrophic drop in social mobility and a widening gap has opened up between the poorest and the rest.

“Now we have new laws to guarantee to every child better discipline, even though school discipline is running out of control, with 425,000 pupils suspended last year, 200,000 of them for violence, and with 100,000 teachers having left the profession in disgust.

“Is it not the case that we do not need new laws, new entitlements and new guarantees? We need a new Government. All the good ideas in this White Paper are Tory ideas.”

Lid Dem spokesman on Children, David Laws, said he welcomed the licence to teach and the principle of the school report card, “provided that it is not diluted by a fuzzy focus on issues of partnership, which I think would detract from its ability to hold schools more effectively to account.”

Tory MP Andrew Mackay asked if Mr Balls regretted “addressing the nation this morning on the “Today” programme, because it has meant that very little was added in his statement and it went completely against your (Mr Speaker’s) advice to Ministers?”

Mr Balls claimed that he did not answer any questions on education policy during the interview.

“The interview was almost entirely about the Conservative party’s inheritance tax cuts and how it was going to pay for them,” he said.

“Today, I have announced proposals in respect of the expert group and the test in year 7 and on the licence to teach, and I have proposed the details of the pupil and parent guarantee, all of which are new to this House.

“There have been no leaks from my Department, and I have been conscious at every stage to ensure that I have conformed with Mr. Speaker’s guidance.”

Mr Gove raised the issue as a point of order after the statement.

“One of the very welcome announcements that you made when you first took the Chair was that Ministers had to make important announcements to this House first,” he said.

“The Secretary of State announced his change on home-school contracts and parenting orders in the pages of the Sunday Mirror.

“He made announcements about chains and federations in briefings to newspapers yesterday, and announcements on the legal guarantee for parents and pupils were briefed to broadcasters this morning.

“What action will you take to ensure that the rights of this House are protected, and that the Secretary of State does not continue to flout your rulings and the rules of this House?”

Mr Speaker replied: “I attended closely to what the Secretary of State said today, and also to earlier media coverage of the gamut of issues that have been addressed today.

“I have not found evidence that there has been prior briefing, which I think is the term that the hon. Gentleman used.

“It is very important that Ministers who come to make statements to the House give the statement first to the House and do not divulge things in advance to the media.

“I shall be watching closely to ensure compliance with the ruling that I gave last week, but I have not yet identified a breach.”

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. john in cheshire  |  July 2, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Does anyone know if balls reads these website blogs? if you do, ed, do you realise how evil you are? you and that smug wife of yours.

    Reply

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