DfE clears the decks by dropping key bill

"We do not require wider education legislation in this session to make progress on our ambitious education agenda," says education secretary

By Civil Service World

28 Oct 2016

The Department for Education has shelved a key piece of legislation announced in this year’s Queen’s Speech.

The Education Bill was based on a white paper, launched by former education secretary Nicky Morgan, which included plans to force all schools in England to become academies.

Those plans were later modified after protests from councils, with the DfE instead saying it would encourage schools to make the switch.

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In a written ministerial statement on technical education, Morgan’s successor Justine Greening claimed that legislation was no longer needed to implement the department’s plans, and pointed out the department now has an expanded remit after taking on higher education policy from the former business department over the summer.

“In light of these changes and the Department for Education’s existing two Bills in Parliament - the Children and Social Work Bill and the Higher Education and Research Bill - we have rightly reflected on our strategic priorities and the proposals for education legislation put forward at the time of the Queen’s Speech,” she said.

Greening said her department had “renewed its focus on ensuring everything we do drives towards improving social mobility”, and insisted its “ambition remains that all schools should benefit from the freedom and autonomy that academy status brings”.

“Our focus, however, is on building capacity in the system and encouraging schools to convert voluntarily,” she added. “No changes to legislation are required for these purposes and therefore we do not require wider education legislation in this session to make progress on our ambitious education agenda.”

As well as taking on higher education policy since Theresa May took over as prime minister, the DfE has been handed the job of overseeing the controversial expansion of selective grammar schools.

The department published a green paper in September outlining its plans, and May confirmed that the government would spend some £50 million a year on the expansion of existing grammars, provided they work with local primary schools to boost access for poorer pupils.

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