In its reporting of Labour’s planned education overhaul, the Telegraph suggests schools that favour middle-class parents in their admissions face direct intervention…
…A policy blueprint, drawn up by David Blunkett, the former Labour education secretary, said tougher action was needed to deal with “widespread non-compliance” with national rules designed to stop schools selecting pupils by the back door.
It goes further than the existing system in which the Office of the Schools Adjudicator “merely issues a ruling” without directly intervening to re-write an admissions policy…
In the most high-profile proposal, Mr Blunkett’s report recommends introducing a wave of up to 152 new “standards tsars” – one for each council area – to keep check on all types of schools, including academies and free schools.
Each Director of School Standards will be expected to identify coasting schools, create new school places where needed, respond to parental concerns and present an annual report to local MPs and council chiefs…
The report also recommended:
• Forcing all teachers to have proper teaching qualifications – reversing Mr Gove’s decision to allow schools to employ staff who have not been through an accredited training course;
• Establishing a cross-party curriculum advisory group to keep the National Curriculum under constant review;
• Giving Ofsted the direct power to inspect academy chains – charities set up to run groups of academies – in a move that runs counter to existing Government policy;
• Introducing a kite-mark system for groups attempting to open new schools;
• Re-establishing the Training and Development Agency for Schools, the quango responsible for teacher training, which was axed by Mr Gove;
• Giving parents more powers to order Ofsted inspections of schools;
• Creating a new wave of “Education Incubation Zones” tasked with using technology to develop state-of-the-art teaching ideas in each area.
The report said the OSA should be given more powers to directly intervene to rewrite school admissions rules because of “evidence of much more widespread non-compliance” with national admissions rules.
These were drawn up under Labour and backed by the Coalition, banning schools from using any entry policy that favours middle-class children over poorer counterparts. This includes interviewing pupils and requiring families to buy expensive uniforms.
The report adds: “It will be necessary to strengthen the OSA and reinstate its power to change admissions arrangements directly on upholding an objection (rather than merely issue a ruling).”
It poses a direct challenge to many faith schools that have clashed with the watchdog recently over admissions policies that prioritise parents who work in the service of the church – flower arranging, bell-ringing and helping out on a Sunday. The OSA has warned that such rules discriminate against poor families that cannot afford to spare the time.
Mr Blunkett’s report also said all state schools should be required to draw up admissions rules in agreement with neighbouring primaries and secondaries – preventing one “rogue” institution “damaging the admissions of other schools in the locality”…
Your thoughts on this proposed strengthening of the powers of the OSA in David Blunkett’s report? Is this the right way to go or should it left to the schools to make the rules? What about the other recommendations listed – which ones catch your eye and why? Please let us know in the comments, via Twitter and by taking part in our poll…[yop_poll id=”168″]