Tony Blair this week launched his controversial Education Bill. Under the new plans secondary schools would run independently from local authority control and become “trust” schools (more like private schools), free to run their own affairs and admissions policy.
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly claims that the new bill gives schools the freedom they need to raise standards.
Critics of the new system argue that the proposals will lead to a “two tier” system where children from disadvantaged backgrounds will lose out, as working class areas are left with declining schools. Even teaching unions have criticised the new plans saying that they won’t improve educational standards in England.
It is also argued that schools will be so concerned with achieving academic excellence and high standards that many children who are struggling and need extra help with schoolwork will be left behind. Critics argue that children like these will be more likely to "drop out" of school because of lack of motivation.
The Education Bill also encourages tougher discipline in schools and improved school meal standards. It gives local authorities the freedom to offer all pupils free meals, fresh fruit, milk or other refreshments during the school day, regardless of family income. Surely this must be good news. You can’t expect children to sit in a classroom and pay attention to lessons if they are ill nourished and ill fed. A healthy and nutritious diet boosts brain power and is crucial to a child's good academic performance in the classroom. So plans for local authorities to offer free healthy meals and snacks to all children, not just those from poor families are welcomed by everyone.