Government backtracks over academy plans

The government’s plans to compel all schools in England to become academies are being abandoned, in a government climbdown.

It has been understood that ministers will now allow good and outstanding schools to stay under local-authority control.

The climbdown has arrived as numerous head teachers threatened to take part in industrial action against the plans. In particular, critics were concerned that all state schools, including high performing ones, were being forced to become academies.

In an interview with the BBC, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan commented: "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.

"I hope that they will because we are convinced that becoming academies does lift standards but they can do the right thing for them and I think that reflects the concerns and the conversations that we have had."

The Department for Education said: “Since launching our proposals in the education white paper, the government has listened to feedback from MPs, teachers, school leaders and parents. It is clear from those conversations that the impact academies have in transforming young people’s life chances is widely accepted and that more and more schools are keen to embrace academy status.

“As a result of these conversations, the government has decided, while reaffirming our continued determination to see all schools to become academies in the next six years, that it is not necessary to bring legislation to bring about blanket conversion of all schools to achieve this goal.”

Commenting on the announcement, Russel Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (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.”

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