Major concerns raised over proposed education reforms

Key changes set out in the education white paper could undermine wider children’s services reforms, campaigners have warned.

Children’s charity 4Children said it was concerned by the continuous moves to extend schools’ autonomy, which carried with them the risk of schools being cut off from their local neighbourhoods and other services crucial to meeting children’s needs.

“This white paper has been described as a pivotal piece of education legislation, yet there is no mention of the government’s own policy to develop extended schools and encourage co-operation among schools and with other local children’s services,” said chief executive Anne Longfield.

“The government appears to be giving out contradictory messages and undermining its ambitions for children – not least by dividing the standards agenda from the wider children’s agenda, when in fact they are absolutely mutually supportive.”

Fears were also voiced about the proposed outlined in the paper for the expansion of successful schools, and the potential implications this could have for other schools, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

“The government’s choice agenda must ensure that all children, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to fulfil their educational potential,” said policy officer George McNamara.

“It is absolutely vital that the most vulnerable children such as those in care, those with special educational needs, and those living in poorer areas are not put at a disadvantage under these proposals.”

Criticising the proposed changes to the schools admissions process, the Local Government Association said they would end up giving choice to schools over who they admitted rather than choice to parents over where their children went.

Education spokesperson Alison King said the reforms would see local authorities’ powers limited to negotiating admissions guidelines in new schools for the first three years. They would have no say over admissions policies in existing schools.

“This flaw means new schools will soon be able to go their own way, disengaging from the communities they are meant to serve by setting their own admission policies,” King warned.

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