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Contemporary context

Parliament continues to play a central role in state schooling. (Education is a devolved area, and therefore policy and practice varies between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). 

The Academies Act 2010, the first piece of education legislation introduced by the previous Coalition Government, made provision for local authority maintained schools in England to convert to academies. Academies, including new ‘free school' academies, have more autonomy than maintained schools over their curriculum, pay and conditions for staff, governance, and the organisation of the school day, for example. The legislation also empowers the Secretary of State for Education to convert schools that are ‘eligible for intervention' (i.e. where schools require significant improvement or special measures). Academies must operate in accordance with a funding agreement between the academy trust and the Secretary of State. 

Changes to early years' provision, arrangements relating to school discipline, the composition of school governing bodies, school inspection, and school funding were included in the Education Act 2011. 

The Children and Families Act 2014 made changes in a number of areas, including education provision for children and young people with special educational needs. The changes were heralded as the biggest reforms to special educational needs (SEN) provision in 30 years

Legislation introduced under the previous Labour Government – the Education and Skills Act 2008 - makes provision for a new duty to be placed on young people above compulsory school age but under 18 years to participate in a form of education or training. The present Government, like the previous Labour Government, intends to increase the participation age in two stages: to 17 years in September 2013 and to 18 years in 2015. The increase in participation will not be restricted to participation in school education but applies to full-time education or training and part-time education or training, if the person is employed.

The Education and Adoption Bill Act 2016 made a number of changes to the school system in England, including provisions to convert schools judged "inadequate" into sponsored academies, give new powers to the Secretary of State for Education to intervene in schools considered to be underperforming and to constrain local authorities from doing so in some circumstances.


Page last updated August 2016.


Related information

Current parliamentary business on the topic of schools