Tony Blair’s government is insisting it will not have to rely on the Conservative opposition to get its newly-published education bill through parliament. However, some Labour politicians who met Education Secretary Ruth Kelly yesterday have not had their fears allayed. The bill includes provisions allowing all state-funded schools to opt out of local authority control and have more say over budgets and admissions.Many Labour MPs are worried about a return to a two-tier system, but Ruth Kelly said they should not be: “I’m confident this is a bill which my colleagues should be able to unite around. It’s a very good bill, it gives schools the freedom they need to be able to raise standards for all of their pupils”.
The bill, backed by the Conservatives, scraps earlier plans to bar local authorities from setting up schools. Labour rebels want the government to give up its planned veto over such decisions.Politicians like Labour’s John Denham could well vote against the bill in mid-March. He said on Tuesday: “The government’s policy has moved a long way towards the critique we made before Christmas, but there will certainly need to be more work on the bill before it’s satisfactory” The head of the National Union of Teachers welcomed proposals to help teachers tackle bad pupil behaviour, but said they were “overshadowed by the government’s obsession with so-called choice and diversity.”