3 December 2013
Article by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Two pieces of education related legislation are to be debated in Plenary this afternoon, although these are at different stages of the Assembly’s legislative process.
Firstly, the general principles of the Education (Wales) Bill are to be debated following the Children and Young People Committee’s scrutiny at Stage 1 of the legislative process and subsequent report. Later, the Further and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Bill will be debated at Stage 3, when it will be subject to amendment by Members. It may then proceed to Stage 4 immediately afterwards, when it may be passed by the Assembly in its original or amended form.
The Education (Wales) Bill has five key purposes:
- Widening the registration and regulation of education practitioners to cover not only teachers but learning support staff, and FE teaching and support staff in the first instance. A new replacement registration body would be set up to replace the existing General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW).
- Reforming and simplifying the process for approving the admission of learners with special educational needs (SEN) to independent schools, by leaving the final decision with local authorities rather than, as at present, requiring individual Ministerial consent in many cases.
- Changing the way assessment of additional learning needs for post-16 learners is carried out and provision subsequently secured. Local authorities would be given the duty to carry out the assessment and for securing provision where this is of a residential or specialist nature, with the further education sector having responsibility for mainstream provision.
- Changing the way school term dates are set in order to harmonise the timing of these across Wales.
- A procedural change to the appointment of HM Chief Inspector, and Inspectors, of Education and Training in Wales.
The Children and Young People Committee supports the general principles of the Bill in relation to the education workforce, harmonised school terms, and appointments to Estyn. However, it believes the SEN elements would be better placed within a single piece of legislation, providing this can be done in a timely manner, given that the Welsh Government plans to legislate more widely on SEN reforms within this Assembly. In total, the Committee makes 13 recommendations.
There are two main elements to the Further and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Bill.
- The Bill aims to enhance the autonomy and decision making abilities of further education institutions in Wales by removing and modifying existing legislative controls on them. The Welsh Government’s policy intention is to achieve a reversal of the Office of National Statistics’ re-classification in October 2010 of the FE sector as part of the general government sector. It is intended the removal of a number of Welsh Government controls over further education institutions will result in a return to them being classified as ‘Non-Profit Institutions Serving Households’.
- The Bill also includes a separate provision for the higher education sector which enables Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to share information relating to the assessment of eligibility for student grants and loans with the Welsh Ministers through a data link.
The Further and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Bill was amended by the Children and Young People Committee at Stage 2 on 24 October 2013. Eleven non-Governments were tabled, of which seven were not agreed and four were withdrawn. Three of the four Welsh Government amendments were agreed by the Committee.
Assembly Members will this afternoon in Plenary debate eight amendments to the Bill as amended after Stage 2, which have been tabled. These have been grouped into five groups as follows:
- Review of operation of the Act
- Transitional arrangements
- Representation on governing bodies
- Consultation by the [governing] body
- Redundancy dismissal
Further information on both Bills, including their scrutiny and tabled amendments, can be found on their dedicated pages on the legislation section of the Assembly website.