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19.05.16

Councils oppose forced backdoor academisation plans in new education bill

An Education for All Bill designed to reinforce the government’s plans to turn all schools into academies was included in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

The Bill is designed to “move towards a system where all schools are academies”, and grants the government new legal powers to force schools in the worst-performing local authorities and those that can no longer viably support their schools to become academies.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan was forced to announce a climbdown on plans to turn all schools into academies after widespread opposition, including from Conservative-led councils such as West Sussex.

Councils confirmed that they remain equally opposed to the new proposals, with Cllr Roy Perry, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, saying: “The LGA strongly believes that all schools should have the choice to stay with their council or convert to academy status, and remains opposed to any forced academisation.”

He said councils should be “regarded as education improvement partners rather than as a barrier to change”, saying that councils are already intervening in under-performing schools and that council run schools are more successful than academies.

Cllr Perry also criticised proposals to transfer oversight of schools to Regional Schools Commissioners on the grounds that they are unelected and there are just eight in the country, meaning each would have to cover a wide area of schools.

He warned that proposed £600m cuts to the Education Services Grant, which helps councils provide services including music education, speech therapy, physiotherapy and DBS checks on staff, could impact on children’s welfare and standards.

The Bill will also establish a National Funding Formula to reform education funding.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, attacked the proposals, saying schools were already facing the first real-terms cuts in a generation, to 8% or more for every pupil.

She added: “Having failed to gain support for the goal of forced academisation from parents, governors, teachers or head teachers, the government proposes to take new powers to arrive at the same endpoint.

“Targeting schools in local authorities that the Secretary of State decides to call 'unviable' or 'underperforming' will fool no one. The scope for political partisanship is clear.

"Removing key roles from local authorities, in particular any involvement in school improvement, will not help to achieve a sustainably successful school system. This reckless plan to sever the link between local government, communities and their local schools puts at risk parental engagement in, and democratic scrutiny of, state schools. Unelected Regional Schools Commissioners, with a clear agenda for academisation, reinforces the democratic deficit.”

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