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Boris Johnson promises schools plan to give every child ‘opportunity to thrive’

Pupils in a lesson at a primary school (Ben Birchall/PA)
Pupils in a lesson at a primary school (Ben Birchall/PA)

Ministers will crack down on truancy, beef up the powers of education watchdogs and reform the funding system in new legislation to create “a school system that works for every child”.

Under the plans, which will form part of the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, England’s schools will be required to publish an attendance policy and there will be compulsory registers for children who are not in classrooms so the authorities can identify who is not receiving a full-time education.

The measures will ensure pupils benefit from “every possible hour in the classroom”, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said education was “at the very heart of this Government’s agenda”.

“We are determined to raise standards in our schools so every child has access to the same opportunities wherever they live, and our brilliant teachers are supported to do what they do best, which is why we’re putting our education ambition into law this week,” Mr Johnson said.

“By giving every child a good education, we’re giving them the opportunity to thrive so they can reach their full potential and secure the jobs needed, this is absolutely vital to our levelling up mission.”

Local government elections
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Schools Bill will help raise standards (Daniel Leal/PA)

The Schools Bill will also include plans for schools to join multi-academy trusts (MATs), a proposal which has been resisted by education unions, with a strengthened regulatory framework giving greater powers to intervene when they are failing.

A new national funding formula is aimed at distributing cash on a “fair and consistent basis”, Ofsted will be given greater powers to crack down on illegally-operating “unregistered schools” and the Teaching Regulation Agency’s ability to investigate misconduct will be strengthened.

As well as the measures on school attendance, in an attempt to make sure children do not slip through the cracks local authorities will be given a duty to provide support to home-schooling families.

Mr Zahawi said: “Our new Schools Bill, alongside the Schools White Paper, will create a school system that works for every child, parent and family, bringing every school up to our current best standards.

“We want every school to be part of an academy trust, enabling teachers to focus on what they do best, meeting the needs of every child.

“Schools’ approach to attendance is being overhauled to make sure every child gets the benefit of every possible hour in the classroom.

“In combination, this work will make sure every child has access to an education that they deserve and helps them fulfil their potential.”

Also in the Queen’s Speech, a Higher Education Bill will enable the introduction of the promised lifelong loan entitlement, allowing people to retrain at any point.

Under the plan people can access a loan equivalent to four years of education, £37,000 in today’s fees, that they can use over their lifetime for a range of studies including shorter and technical courses.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “After two years of unprecedented chaos and disruption to children’s education, the Conservatives are obsessing over structures instead of improving children’s experience in the classroom.

“This Bill contains no plan to support children’s pandemic recovery. No plan to improve teaching and tackle the exodus of school staff from our classrooms.

“No plan to ensure more young people gain essential qualifications.

“No plan to give children the broad education that young people, parents and employers want to see.

“No plan, no ambition, no vision for our children.”

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