Student unions to be restricted: Agency to fund teacher training

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Indy Politics
MINISTERS will gain powers to restrict the role of student unions under an Education Bill published last night. The Bill will also set up an agency to fund and monitor teacher training.

But John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, was accused of asking MPs and peers to approve student union reforms without being told what they were voting on.

A consultation document, published in July, proposed that campus student unions should only receive public funds for 'core activities' such as welfare, catering and sport. Political societies, student newspapers and even the ballroom dancing society would have to fund themselves.

Although the regulations which will restrict student union activities are expected to be broadly similar to those suggested in July, the full picture will not be made clear until the Bill has passed through Parliament. The legislation does say universities must draw up codes of conduct for their students' unions and must make sure they are run in a fair and democratic manner.

Last night, those opposed to the reforms said that the Bill's lack of detail would fuel a revolt in the House of Lords, where it will be debated first.

Lorna Fitzsimons, president of the National Union of Students, said Mr Patten had ignored the protests made by students and academics during a five-month consultation period. 'This will give power to the Secretary of State to decide upon whatever regulations he deems fit. The Government expects the Houses of Parliament to decide upon legislation without knowing what they are voting on,' she said.

Ann Taylor, Labour's education spokeswoman, said: 'This could mean that Mr Patten is heading for trouble in the House of Lords. It will make it more difficult for him to get the Bill through there.'

The Bill will also create an agency to fund teacher training, giving new impetus to reforms that will make trainee teachers spend more time in the classroom and that will give schools more responsibility for training.

But Mrs Taylor said the measure would place emphasis on the funding, rather than the quality of teacher education.

In yesterday's league tables, the number of pupils gaining three or more Standard Grades one or two at the John Paul Academy, Glasgow, should have read 29 per cent.