Queen’s Speech

19 May 2016

On 18 May the Queen’s speech as part of the State opening of Parliament set out the government’s core legislative agenda, giving details of a large number of new Bills which will progress some of the ideas and policy plans that have been discussed in recent White Papers and consultations.

You can read the full details of the Bills and speech, and an introduction from the Prime Minister here.

What was announced?

There wasn’t anything new in the speech, but it does give us a good indication as to what will actually be taken forward into law from the raft of new policy initiatives that have been announced recently. It has been generally acknowledged in the press that much of the agenda set out in this speech has been ‘watered down’, possibly due to the government’s nervousness about the forthcoming European Referendum.


Education for All Bill

As we reported in our Policy and Practice Round-up this week, one of the government’s key reforms of our education system will not go ahead as planned. Educational Excellence Everywhere’s intention was for all schools to become academies by 2020 – but this has now been amended. The government now says it is planning to ‘move towards a system where all schools are academies’. It will still be able to force acadamisation on schools which its deems to be failing, or where it deems a local authority is failing, and on schools where there are no longer enough schools in a LA to provide a ‘critical mass’.

The new funding formula for schools will definitely go ahead.

The background notes to the speech also make it clear that the purpose of the Bill is to

‘Deliver the vision that will be set out in the forthcoming Skills Plan through ambitious reform to technical education. These changes will focus on closing the major productivity gap between our economy and other leading economies.’ 

We believe that this is a reference to the forthcoming Skills White paper that will be the result of Lord Sainsbury’s independent panel review of technical education (FE Week reported on a leaked version earlier this month).

You can read a response to the Education for All Bill from School’s Week here and the TES here.


National Citizenship Service Bill

The government plans to place the National Citizenship Service (NCS) ‘on a statutory footing’. Civil Society Media says:

‘Government will create a new statutory framework to deliver the NCS, and put a duty on all secondary schools, including academies, sixth-form colleges and independent schools, to promote the NCS to young people and their parents. The bill will also put a duty on local authorities to promote the NCS, and on the relevant secretaries of state to report annually on how they have promoted it.’


Life Chances Strategy and the Welfare Reform and Work Act

There are a number of reforms in the speech which the government is packaging up as an ‘all-out assault on the root causes of poverty’. Many of these relate to measures for adoption and for children in care, and there is another mention of the ‘Sugar Tax’ that will be used to double the PE and Sport Premium, fund breakfast clubs, and extend school provision.

We know that a new Life Chances Strategy is going be launched by the Prime Minister in the very near future, but the Welfare Reform and Work Act introduces ‘new statutory life chances measures for the two factors that we know can make the biggest difference to disadvantaged children:

  • Children in workless households and;
  • Children’s educational attainment.’

It will be important to learn more about this measurement of ‘educational attainment’. In the ‘Key facts’ section of the briefing the government says that ‘The proportion of pupils taking core academic subjects at GCSE has increased by 78% since 2010.’ This may indicate that they are thinking of using the EBacc for this measurement. We would be extremely concerned if this was the case, as we know that studying the arts in school makes a significant difference to social mobility and is essential to improving children’s life chances.

You can read responses from Barnardo’s, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.


Higher Education and Research Bill

As we mention in our Two White Papers piece, on 16 May the Government published the HE White Paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy. This sets out a number of plans including:

  • reforms which will make it easier for new universities to be set up
  • for universities to be enabled to raise their tuition fees in line with inflation
  • for the creation of a new Office for Students
  • a new, overarching Research Council: UK Research and Innovation

The Bill sets out the legislation to make this happen. The Times Higher Education has pulled together this round-up of HE sector responses.


British Bill of Rights

The Queen’s speech stated that plans for a British bill of rights to replace the Human Rights Act will be published in ‘due course’ and subject to consultation. It is extremely important that children’s current rights are protected and strengthened in the event of any changes. Every child has the right to an education and everyone has the right the right to a family life. You can read analysis from Liberty here, and Amnesty here.