SCHOOLS BILL MEANS LEGAL CHALLENGE TO TEACHERS, ED BALLS ADMITS
Sunday November 22,2009
By Hilary Douglas
Ed Balls admits that the Schools Bill could mean ‘increased costs’ for teachers
Sweeping education reforms could leave schools facing legal action running into hundreds of millions of pounds, Ed Balls admitted last night.
The Schools Bill guarantees children the legal right to a good education – but teachers fear it will allow pushy parents to blame them if youngsters fail to achieve the standards they expect. A set of guarantees written into the bill includes the promise that every child will go to a school that has high aspirations for them, where there is good behaviour, strong discipline, order and safety. Schools Secretary Mr Balls has conceded that parents’ legal challenges to this could result in “increased costs”. Conservative schools spokesman Nick Gibb said: “Ed Balls’s plan to see head teachers in court defending themselves against parents is expensive, time-consuming and completely misses the point about giving parents more control over their child’s education. “If heads have to spend hours in court defending their school against legal action it will mean less time in their school providing leadership to raise standards and less money for books and teachers because they will have to pay lawyers instead. “On top of this, only those parents with the financial means to pay for expensive lawyers would be able to take advantage, so less well-off parents would be stuck in the same situation as they are now.
“Far from a system of legal guarantees which would allow mainly wealthier parents to take schools to court, what we need is to give parents a genuine choice by opening up the system by allowing educational providers, groups of teachers and parents to set up state-funded independent schools which operate in the way they want – for example, taking a tough line on discipline and keeping class sizes small instead.” Margaret Morrissey of lobby group Parents’ Outloud said: “What is Ed Balls doing, 12 years after Labour came to power, talking about guaranteeing good schools. Surely they should all be good already, after the billions poured into education over the past decade?”