A new Education Law radically revising the outdated legislation underpinning the island’s school system has been approved by lawmakers.

It outlaws strapping, enshrines the National Curriculum in law, creates the framework for the creation of charter schools and establishes an independent schools inspection unit called the Office of Education Quality Assurance.The law was unanimously approved after an extended discussion in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It also establishes a legal basis for the authority of the Minister of Education, bringing the law in sync with the constitution.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said the old law had been in place effectively since the 1970s and had not been amended to reflect the changes in the system since that time. He said the new legislation was based largely on the education modernization law which was passed in the last days of the previous Progressives administration, but never enacted by the United Democratic Party government that followed.

Education Minister Tara Rivers said it enshrined in law some of the key principles and policies of the education system, including the requirement for early childhood education and to provide technical and vocational training.

“This legislation will provide a substantive framework from which all policies, programs and initiatives should emanate to ensure persons of all abilities are provided for.”

She added that it also brought the law up to date with modern practices in the education system, correcting an imbalance between the law and established procedure.

“The bill seeks to ensure that the practice, management and regulation of education are guided by and enshrined in a solid legislative footing, correcting technical breaches of the law whereby the practices and policies of education have not been in keeping with what the current and essentially decades old law calls for.

“This legislation represents a comprehensive provision for education from the cradle to the grave, starting from early childhood care and education to post-compulsory education, tertiary and technical vocational education and training.”

By legislating on key points like the national curriculum and oversight and inspections, she said, the law sought to provide an underlying framework that would make the key tenets of the system resistant to election cycles.

“This legislation will provide a substantive framework from which all policies, programs and initiatives should emanate to ensure persons of all abilities are provided for.”

Addressing the issue of publicly funded but privately run schools, similar to U.S. charter schools, which some legislators, including independent MLA Winston Connolly have advocated for, she said the law made that type of arrangement possible.

“This bill specifically provides the legislative framework that it is essential to have before you can talk about partnerships in governance going forward,” she added.

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