Education bill passes through Commons despite backbench rebellion

The government was forced to rely on Conservative support again yesterday to ensure the safe passage of its controversial education reforms through the House of Commons.

MPs voted 422 to 98 in favour of passing the Education and Inspection Bill, with those voting against including 69 rebel Labour MPs.

The new education secretary, Alan Johnson, insisted that the bill would make every school a good school and ensure every child realised their full potential, especially those in care.

While acknowledging that “valid concerns” had been raised during the bill’s passage, Johnson said these had been addressed through various amendments, including the move to allow the best local authorities to automatically put forward proposals for new community schools.

“The bill will drive up educational standards further by supporting stronger partnerships, creating new curriculum entitlements for 14- to 19-year-olds, ensuring better discipline, developing a powerful strategic role for local authorities, tightening up the admissions framework, and helping to turn around failing schools,” Johnson told MPs.

However, amendments put forward by the Special Education Consortium to stop a disproportionately high number of pupils with special educational needs being excluded from mainstream schools failed to make the bill.

The pressure group of over 240 organisations and individuals wanted a new clause added to ensure that no disabled pupil or pupil with SEN could be excluded from their school without a review first being carried out of the adjustments and special provisions made for them.

Two separate amendments that would have given parents the power to veto plans to change a school from a community school to trust school and would have removed from local education authorities the power to close special schools were both rejected.

The bill will now proceed to the House of Lords.

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