The government has dropped plans to convert all schools in England to become academies after strong opposition.
Proposals for schools to be forced to convert to academy status by 2022 was announced in the Budget in March. It faced opposition from head teachers, teacher unions, councillors and some conservative backbench MPs.
To push ahead with such plans despite such huge opposition would have caused a backlash, with the education sector threatening industrial action.
Ministers now say the plan to make every school an academy is an ‘aspiration’, and not a compulsory policy. The U-turn comes days after the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, insisted the plans would go ahead.
In a statement at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference, Morgan said “Making every school an academy is the best way to ensure every child, regardless of birth or background, has access to a world-class education.”
She still hopes schools will choose to convert to academies, but having listened “to the feedback from Parliamentary colleagues and the education sector” will now change the path to reaching that goal.
The Department for Education stated that this evaluation was based on reactions from MPs, teachers, school leaders and parents since publishing the proposal.
What is an academy?
- Academies are independent, state-funded schools, which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through a local authority.
- The everyday running of the school is controlled by the head teacher or principal, but they are overseen by individual charitable bodies called academy trusts and may be part of an academy chain.
- These trusts and chains provide advice and support.
- They control their own admissions process and have more freedom to change term times and can opt out of the national curriculum
Schools deemed ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ will no longer be forced to become academies. But under new plans the government could force schools to change when local authorities show consistently poor results across their schools.
According to the DfE in the last month, 227 schools put in applications to convert, the highest monthly figure since the programme began and the rate is expected to increase.
Nottingham City Councillor, Sam Webster, the Portfolio Holder For Schools disagrees with Morgan and does not accept that academisation drives up standards. He argues if it does it remains to be seen.
Webster believes local authorities should have a say in the running of local schools and it should not all be centralised.
“Councils need that local oversight role”
Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder For Schools
Councillor Sam Webster speaking on the need for local authorities.