The Queen's Speech: Education: Rebellions brewing in both houses

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The Independent Online
REBELLIONS in both houses of Parliament are possible this session over the Government's controversial plans to reform student unions and teacher training, writes Fran Abrams.

The education Bill announced yesterday is expected to be introduced in the Lords first because the strongest opposition is expected to come from academics who are members of the upper house.

There will be two main strands to the legislation. The first will set up an agency to run a new system of school-based teacher training. The second is designed to prevent public funds from being used to pay for student politics and restricts the use of taxpayers' money to core services such as welfare, catering and sport. It will also require universities to draw up codes of conduct which will restrict political activity within student unions.

The National Union of Students has a list of 14 Conservative MPs who have privately voiced opposition to the student union reforms, including Robert Jackson, the former higher education minister.

But many former vice-chancellors and other academics in the Lords believe that the student union reforms pose a threat to the autonomy of universities. The teacher training reforms will also prove unpopular because they are aimed at reducing the role of higher education, which has been accused by right-wingers of promoting the ideals of 1960s liberalism.

The NUS said yesterday the legisation would damage many areas of student life. Ann Taylor, Labour's education spokeswoman, said the proposals in the Queen's Speech were irrelevant to the nation's educational needs. Plans to reform teacher training, particularly in primary schools, would deprofessionalise teaching.

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