Education Secretary Michael Gove has outlined his plans to break down the "Berlin Wall" between private and state schools in education.
The shadow education secretary has weighed into the row between the Department for Education and the chief inspector of schools.
Boys are about half as likely to enjoy writing as girls, with many saying that they find it embarrassing, according to new research.
The Department for Education has defended the practice of schools schools asking parents to pay for textbooks, computers and trips away but has insisted that it does not put poorer students at a disadvantage.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "While schools can ask for voluntary contributions for textbooks, musical instruments or other equipment, it must be made clear to parents that there is absolutely no obligation to donate.
"If a parent is unable or unwilling to pay, their child must be given an equal chance to take part in school life.
"We have protected the schools budget and just last month announced that we are giving an extra £350m to schools in historically under-funded areas".
Schools are requesting donations from parents which could lead to pupils from poor families being disadvantaged, a poll by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) suggests.
ATL member Jo Inglis said the survey found just 7% of teachers felt that asking parents for donations had no impact on disadvantaged pupils.
The survey also claimed that:
- 43% of parents have contributed up to £50 a year per pupil in voluntary contributions for activities or goods that are not linked to their child's schoolwork
- 70% have donated up to £50 a year per pupil to help pay for items and trips that are related to the school curriculum.
Parents are being asked for donations by schools towards stationery, textbooks, trips and computers, a survey has suggested.
The findings show that 70% of parents have contributed up to £50 a year per pupil to help pay for items and trips related to the school curriculum.
The poll, by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, indicates staff are worried that pupils could be put at a disadvantage if their parents are unable to donate money.
An education minister will tomorrow endorse the chief inspector of schools' vision for more teaching in early years, despite a wave of criticism of the plans.
Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw sparked controversy last week with a call for more youngsters to start learning in school nurseries from the age of two, saying it would help break a cycle of disadvantage which sees poorer children fall far behind their classmates by the time they are five.
In a speech in London tomorrow, education minister Liz Truss will back the chief inspector's position and set out plans to improve and expand teaching in early years.
Restrictions have been removed so that any school can open a nursery and school nurseries can open for longer hours to fit in with parents' work schedules, she will say.
The number of truancy fines handed to parents has increased by 27% in the last year, official figures have shown.
According to data from the Department for Education, 52,370 penalty notices were issued in 2012 to 2013, up from 41,224 the previous year.
However, separate figures show that overall absences were down from 6% of school sessions in 2009/10 to 5.2% in 2012/13.
Persistent absences - where students miss 15% of school or more - were down by around a third to 300,895 in the same period, the figures showed.
In September 2012, the government increased fines for truancy from £50 to £60, and from £100 to £120 if not paid within 28 days.
A secondary school, where more than three-quarters of its pupils do not have English as their mother tongue, plans to teach English as a foreign language to all of its students.
The City of Leeds School teaches 300 children from 55 different countries but says its new approach will also apply to those whose first language is English.
Headteacher Ms Sale said pupils will receive one extra 50-minute English lesson each week. The school hopes the extra tutition will "boost their fundamental English skills and improve their basic spelling and grammar."
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Ms Sale said many of her pupils struggled to read and write even in their native language.
Ms Sale told the paper: "Many of our pupils are not only new to English but they are not even literate in their own language. In some cases we are the first people to put a pen in their hand."
The move is a strategy aimed at reversing the school’s GCSE results which saw only 26% of pupils achieving the crucial five A* to C grades last year.
The school plans to introduce the lessons to all pupils later in the year.
Many Ofsted inspectors lack the necessary skills to properly analyse school performance, a new report has warned.
The study by think-tank Policy Exchange said Ofsted should consider "abolishing or radically reducing" the 3,000 inspectors brought in from private outsourcing companies - 1,500 of whom carry out school inspections.
Ofsted itself is thought to directly employ 300-400 inspectors, of whom 150 work in schools.
A number of inspectors lack the "ability to analyse data" or do not have the specialist knowledge in primary or special needs teaching to make a fair judgement, researchers said.
Policy Exchange called for inspectors to have direct teaching experience in the schools they are assessing.
Primary schools in England are to be encouraged to take children as young as two in their nurseries.
The government wants to ease restrictions and extend opening hours, so parents can leave their children for the whole working day.
Opponents believe it is an attempt to organise childcare on the cheap, and would leave young children in the wrong environment.
June O'Sullivan from the London Early Learning Foundation told ITV News: It's inappropriate and I really feel uncomfortable because it really feels like easyJet childcare.
"You've got a few spaces here and there and you pluck them in and that will be fine - but that won't be fine, because children won't thrive in that environment."
Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports:
Schools standards will only improve once the quality of teaching in classrooms is raised, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has said.
Michael Gove earlier put forward proposals to shake-up the education system which he hopes will end the "Berlin Wall" divide between state and private school sectors.
"Improving school standards starts with a qualified teacher in every classroom. Until Michael Gove commits to this, he is ruling himself out of any serious debate about how we raise standards in our schools," Mr Hunt, said.
"Whether on discipline, delivering extra-curricular activities or on improving learning outcomes, it all hinges on the quality of the teacher in the classroom.
"Raising the quality of teaching - that is where the focus needs to be and that is what Labour is concerned with. The Tories have lost sight of this and are undermining school standards as a result."