Many of the Government’s ambitious new education reforms could be undone almost immediately after the next general election regardless of who takes their place in the House of Commons.
A teaching union leader in Birmingham said cuts in education would be inevitable due to the parlous economic state of the country.
Children’s Secretary Ed Balls yesterday unveiled the new Improving Schools and Safeguarding Children Bill, one of 11 new pieces of legislation likely to feature in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech before a general election by June 2010.
The Schools White Paper aims to guarantee an individually-tailored education for each state sector pupil, the introduction of United States-style school report cards, and the possibility of weak schools being merged with good ones in “chains” under the authority of one head.
Mr Balls said the “pupil guarantee” would ensure personal tuition to every secondary school pupil, as well as to pupils in years 3 to 6 falling behind in English or maths and those starting secondary school who were behind at the end of primary school.
Parents will be given more information about their child’s progress and their views will be reported on the School Report Card while Home-School Agreements will be strengthened to give schools more powers to enforce discipline through parenting contracts and parenting orders. In addition, high-performing schools, colleges and universities will run groups of schools to raise standards, and the best head teachers could run more than one school.
Aston University, which is already supporting a proposed engineering and skills academy for 14-19-year-olds, said they supported the idea of partnership working in principle for the benefit of schools.
Mr Balls also announced that teachers would face five-year check-ups under a new renewable “licence to teach”, which will be introduced first for newly-qualified teachers from next year.
But Roger King, Birmingham secretary of the National Union of Teachers, doubted whether the Government would maintain sufficient funding to keep the reforms in place.
He said: “It is typical of the Government to put in extra funding to pilot a new initiative but then that funding is withdrawn. They came out a few years ago and said no Key Stage One class above 30 and funding was put in place, but that funding was limited and it has gone now. You can imagine how expensive one-to-one tuition is. If it wasn’t expensive then Ed Balls would bring down class sizes to 20 or 25.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that, over the next couple of years, there are going to be cuts in education regardless of who wins the next election. Everyone knows it, the politicians know it, the local authorities know it, the unions know it.
“No one is going to say it before an election but you can see how much the country is in hock due to the banking crisis, and will be over the next few years.”
Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove accused Mr Balls of having “nothing original to offer” and of serving up “old material”. He told MPs introducing legal obligations on schools to drive up standards was evidence that Labour had failed to do so in the last 12 years.