Government Accused Of Trying To Remove Staff And Students From School Boards By Stealth

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TONI PEARCE
Toni Pearce, NUS Vice-President Has Criticised The Government's Amendments | NUS

An "alarming" last-minute amendment has been made by the government to the education bill, which would see staff and student representatives taken off school governor boards by stealth, a union claims.

The National Union of Students (NUS) believes the government have added details to the education bill without any prior consultation, which would abolish the requirement on further education (FE) colleges to have staff and student representatives.

The change, due to be debated in the House of the Lords, would curtail the influence of teachers and students, essentially those who deliver and receive education, over the way their institutions are run.

Toni Pearce, NUS Vice-President, said having student and staff representation on governance boards was a "long-standing and important tradition".

"The attempt to remove it, with no consultation and as a last minute amendment is alarming", she added.

"This is hugely dangerous as having representation of those who deliver and receive education acts as a check on unsuitable governance."

According to the NUS, the change was made on Monday without any consultation and would not be debated in the House of Lords (HoL). The Lords plans to convene on Tuesday for the third report stage of the Education Bill to discuss amendments 83A and 84ZB, which aim to alter sections 22 and 27 of the 1992 further and higher education act.

Although it is not unusual for the government to make minor alterations to a bill, the NUS claim the change is a substantial one which should be subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny.

The NUS said they required "urgent clarification" from the government as to whether the current requirement for colleges to have student and staff governors would continue to exist.

The government has already dropped plans to have staff and student representation on the boards of maintained schools despite it being a long-standing requirement to have elected figures from the two groups present on the decision-making panels.

"We are clear that there is no legal reason why staff and students should have their positions as governors weakened by the removal of this mandatory requirement," Pearce added.

"The government rightly say that stakeholder involvement in governance is important and as the key stakeholders in education students and staff bring expertise and oversight that can challenge unworkable policy in colleges."

The Huffington Post UK has contacted the department for Business, Innovation and Skills for comment but has yet to receive a reply.