The Children, Schools and Families Bill

This Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on the 19th November this year. 

The bill sets out to reforms schools as well as other childrens’ services and sets out  a number of guarantees to parents and children as to what they can expect from the Schools system in the 21st century. 

In part, the Bill follows on from the Rose Review by implementing many of the recommendations found in that report and introduces curriculum reforms. No long will children be taught separate subjects, but the primary school curriculum will be divided into 6 areas.  So, for example skills in literacy and numeracy can be developed in a range of subjects such as history.  This is a move seen in other Western European countries, yet it hardly seems radical to apply the basic skills such as literacy and numeracy to an understanding of history, geography and mathematics. 

The national curriculum will  become less centralised, this having been a criticism of the National Curriculum as well as Labour Governments in general.  Although of course the National Curriculum came into force in 1988 under a Conservative administration, which had apparently rolled back the state.  Now, schools and teachers are to be trusted to make decisions on how best to teach subjects like Maths and English, although basic skills and knowledge are to underpin everything learnt in school.  While history is to be taught under a ‘historical, social and geographical’ theme, British history is  to become a feature of primary school pupil’s learning,    

The bill contains guarantees including a commitment to one-to-one tuition for pupils who are falling behind their peers.  Parents have a right to redress if such guarantees are not met, perhaps allowing greater ‘parentocracy’ and the inequalities associated with that.

Teachers will be subject to a license to practice and they will be required to demonstrate their fitness to teach at designated intervals.  This could be an attempt to tackle the ‘problem’ of incompetent teachers.  In fiction we have them in the form of Steph Haydock and  Grantly Budgen in Waterloo Road.  A ‘discourse of derision’ (as identified by Stephen Ball)  where the problem of incompetent teachers is evident in parts of the popular press  (see for example this article in the Daily Mail). Surely this development, introduced in this Bill is exactly what these critics want?

Another significant development arising from this new Bill is the introduction of a register of home educated pupils.  This can be seen as the state interfering in the private lives of those who wish to educate their children themselves, but yet is designed to protect children as in some case home education is used as a cover for child abuse.  Again, those who claim the Government should be doing more to protect vulnerable children will welcome this?