MPs launch fight against plans to increase schools’ independence

Plans to increase schools’ independence and allow them to develop their own admissions policies will undermine the Every Childs Matters agenda and put more difficult children at risk of further exclusion, an influential group of Labour MPs has warned.

In a document proposing a host of amendments to the controversial Education White Paper, the MPs – including former education secretary Estelle Morris and former ministers John Denham, Nick Raynsford, Alan Whitehead and Angela Eagle – welcome the government’s desire to create a world class education system that will deliver for all children but warn that some of the existing proposals will not only fail to deliver these aims but “are likely to undermine and undo many of the advances Labour has already made”.

The MPs criticise the paper’s failure to address the conflict between the local authority’s role under Every Child Matters to co-ordinate and commission children’s services and the proposed end to their involvement in schools’ decisions on curriculum, organisation and resources. They also warn that increasing schools’ independence in this way will hinder delivery of the extended schools agenda.

Allowing schools to become their own admissions authorities will make it extremely difficult for local authorities to coordinate the overall process and “most unlikely” that any school will voluntarily amend its admissions policy to include more difficult children, they add.

As a result, the MPs are calling for the Education Bill to require all publicly funded schools to work together to achieve the aims of Every Child Matters and to comply with a revised statutory code of practice on admissions to be created after the bill has been passed.

The publication of the MPs’ report coincided with the announcement by schools minister Jacqui Smith that an earlier version of a revised school admissions code of practice would be shelved after a consultation exercise in the autumn raised “a wide range of views and points” requiring further consideration.

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