Latest Public Sector News

06.05.16

Morgan announces government climbdown on academies

The government is abandoning its controversial plans to turn all schools into academies, instead only making it a requirement for underperforming schools.

The government announced plans to turn every school in England into an academy in the March Budget, but the proposals were met with widespread protests from councils and concerns about how the scheme will be funded.

Nicky Morgan MP, the education secretary, today backed down from the unpopular proposals, announcing that the government will instead force underperforming schools to become academies and encourage high-performing schools to seek academy sponsors.

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.

“I am today reaffirming our determination to see all schools to become academies. However having listened to the feedback from Parliamentary colleagues and the education sector we will now change the path to reaching that goal.

“By focusing our efforts on those schools most at risk of failing young people, and encouraging good and outstanding schools to seize the opportunities of conversion, we will ensure the continued growth of the academy programme, empowering frontline heads and school leads and transforming even more children’s education.”

The climb down is an extraordinary turnaround from Morgan, who was insisting just last week that she was not going to leave the job of introducing academies “half done”.

However, the Department for Education (DfE) said that it would bring forward legislation which will trigger conversion of all schools within a local authority where the local authority can no longer viably support its remaining schools because a critical mass of schools in that area has converted or the local authority consistently fails to meet a minimum performance threshold across its schools.

The department also announced new support for small rural schools by introducing ‘sparsity’ funding for over 1,200 schools and a new ‘double lock’ for academised schools so that they cannot close without permission of local and national government.

The DfE added that it had received 227 applications for academy status in the most recent month for which figures were available, the highest amount ever.

The LGA, which has been one of the most vocal opponents of the academy reforms, said on Twitter that it was “delighted” at the news.

Cllr Paul Carter, chairman  of the County Councils Network (CCN), who wrote for PSE this week about the need for Whitehall to work collaboratively with councils to deliver an improved education system, said: “The CCN welcomes the decision not to compel all schools to become academies. 

“The Secretary of State has rightly listened to the concerns of councils, teachers, governors and parents in taking this important decision. This decision is also vital for the preservation of rural schools which are at the heart of their local communities. It is only right that parents have maximum choice over the type of schools they want their children to attend. 

“Counties have worked tirelessly with all their schools, irrespective of classification, to support them in raising standards year on year.”

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(Image c. Joe Giddens from PA Wire)

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