Leaked Report by MPs Puts New Heat on School Reform

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY;DOMINIC HAYES

'Give town halls more controls' TONY BLAIR'S landmark education reforms were under new pressure today as a major draft report called for town halls to be given "social composition" powers over schools.

The pressure comes as the crisis over sex offenders in schools has seriously weakened Education Secretary Ruth Kelly's authority. Her role came under fire when it emerged she authorised five offenders in one year to work in schools.

Her tally was half the total number approved by Labour since 1997.

The new leak from the Labourdominated education select committee will increase pressure on the Prime Minister to water down his plans to strip powers from local education authorities - one of Mr Blair's personal priorities.

As revealed by the Evening Standard earlier this week, the milestone report will demand tougher curbs on schools that practice selection by ability "by the back door" and will propose giving local authorities a powerful role in enforcing the rules.

The draft suggests councils should be empowered to tell schools how many children from poor families should be admitted, as well as policing fair admission codes.

The role of local authorities has emerged as the most difficult area between Mr Blair and the rebels, with the Prime Minister determined to free schools from town hall control. MPs will meet on Monday to finish the report.

Tories want the report to be more supportive of Mrs Kelly's education White Paper because they think Mr Blair will get off the hook of a major rebellion by using the report as an excuse to make concessions. …