Doubts remain over amended plans for education reform

Local government leaders have welcomed last week’s publication of the Education and Inspections Bill but warned that academies must not be allowed to operate outside new rules on school admissions.

The bill, published four months after the education white paper, confirmed concessions made by education secretary Ruth Kelly in response to some of the criticism from Labour MPs and the House of Commons education and skills committee.

Concessions included a promise that all schools awarded trust status would be forced to “act in accordance” with the government’s code of practice on school admissions, rather than just “have regard” to it.

Local Government Association chair Alison King said this had helped allay many of the association’s initial fears of a “divisive admissions free-for-all” and should ensure all pupils a fairer chance of choosing the school they want.

However, she warned that the bill did not go far enough. “The government has accepted that an unregulated admissions system is not the way forward,” she said. “But all schools must face the same rules.

“Academies need to be an integral part of the local family of schools – taking hard-to-place pupils and those with special educational needs.”

King said the bill also offered some reassurances about local authorities’ strategic commissioning role, but criticised Kelly’s insistence on introducing a “potential veto” over local authorities’ ability to open community schools.

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