Government announces U-turn over forced academies

The Government has announced it is backing down on plans to force all schools in England to become academies.

Friday, 6th May 2016, 3:06 pm
Updated Friday, 6th May 2016, 4:26 pm
Children in classroom.

The Government has dropped the plans in the face of opposition from teaching unions, Tory MPs and councils.

The U-turn by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan comes after a backlash to the proposal to take schools out of local authority control by 2022.

Ministers still hope that a large number of schools will choose to convert to academies, but the plan is now an "aspiration" rather than a compulsory policy, the Department for Education said.

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Ms Morgan hopes the concessions will meet the demands of Tory rebels opposed to compelling high-performing schools to convert.

This was about the government listening, she said, adding ministers understood top schools should retain the choice on whether to convert.

The move comes days after threats of industrial action by head teachers.

Commenting on the announcement that the government is to abandon plans to turn every school into an academy, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Today the government has announced that it will not take up powers to compel all good and outstanding schools to become academies.

"This echoes the concerns NAHT raised at conference and we are pleased the government has listened to the profession. We stand ready to engage in further discussions about how the government can meet its vision in co-operation with the education sector. This move gives us hope that such dialogue can now be constructive.

“In a further significant announcement, the government has made clear that small rural schools are not under threat from its policies on school structure. This will reassure the dedicated teachers and leaders in such schools, who are often at the heart of rural communities. We remain concerned, however, at the funding situation and await clarity on the revised funding formula.

“We recognise that the government remains strongly in favour of academies and we ourselves have nothing against voluntary conversion to academy status. We can have a much better conversation about academies in this new climate. We welcome this constructive approach.”

Academies are independently run - but state-funded - schools, overseen by a not-for-profit business, known as an academy trust. They are often part of a chain.

The controversial plans to require all schools to convert to academy status, or have plans to do so, by 2022 were announced in the Budget, but immediately faced opposition from teachers and head teachers, education experts and MPs and councillors - both Conservative and opposition.

Mrs Morgan told the BBC in an interview: "This is about being a listening government and I would consider myself to be a listening secretary of state.

"Better to have reforms than have none at all.

"We absolutely support those strong local authorities where schools are good and outstanding - they can make the choice to convert."

Currently all schools can choose to convert to academy status, but those deemed to be struggling or failing to improve sufficiently can be forced to convert. That will remain the case under these new plans.