Education and Adoption Bill (Second Reading)

Rose to speak at 9.12 pm:

Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): We have had heard much discussion from Members on both sides of the House today, and a lot of questions have still not been answered. We are still trying to find out what “coasting schools” actually means. That term is central to the new powers provided in the Bill. Does the Minister not feel that the definition of that term should have been included in the Bill, so that we could be clear about the exact powers that we are voting on?

One of my biggest issues with the Bill is the huge powers that are being passed over to the Secretary of State, many of which are to be taken up by the regional schools commissioners, who have performance targets as part of their remit. Is there not a conflict of interest if those commissioners are to be rewarded for academising schools?

Clive Lewis: The regional schools commissioners report to the headteacher boards. In my constituency, one person who has been appointed to the headteacher board is Dame Rachel de Souza, who will now be making decisions on which schools will be academised and where there will be free schools. Does my hon. Friend not feel that there is something inherently wrong with that?

Kate Osamor: I totally agree, and that is what I want to ask the Minister. Does he not think that such people are wearing two hats, and that there is a grey area that needs more explaining?

The Minister for Schools (Mr Nick Gibb): I say to the hon. Lady and to the hon. Member for Norwich South (Clive Lewis) that the Inspiration Trust is one of the most successful academy chains in the country and is transforming the quality of education in the part of the country that the hon. Gentleman represents. If I were in his shoes, I would go and see the Thetford academy and some of the other schools—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. Minister, I want you to save some speech for later.

Kate Osamor: I would ask the Minister to be open, and to ensure that those of us representing constituencies where that could happen feel that it is above board. Until such time, that question will float. I would like him to answer it.

Louise Haigh: The debate is not just between my hon. Friend and the Minister. A great many other stakeholders should be involved in the process when academies want to take over schools, not least parents and governors. Does she agree that it is appalling that parents have been completely removed from the consultation process in academies?

Kate Osamor: Parents should be totally involved in the education of their children. In the new academisation process, parents are not on governing bodies, which is an issue in itself that the Minister should look in to.

Daniel Zeichner: Does my hon. Friend agree that there is something curious—I welcome it—about the development of regional schools commissioners? Some of us will remember that, when the process first started, many of us suggested that things could not continue with everything being done from the centre. We now have regional schools commissioners. Does she agree that we might end up with that being further sub-divided—we might end up with something that is remarkably like local education authorities?

Kate Osamor: I totally agree with all the interventions apart from the Minister’s. On that ground, I will not support the Bill.

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Kate Osamor MP

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