Blunkett questions government’s academy plan

Former Education Secretary David Blunkett has questioned the government’s plan to convert every school into an academy by 2020, warning that it is ‘doomed to fail’.

Blunkett was one of the ministers responsible for drawing up initial plans for academies under the Labour government in the 2000s but, writing for The Observer, he said that it is ‘mystifying’ that the government wants to convert already high performing local authority run schools.

According to Blunkett, the original aim of academies was to improve underperforming by providing additional autonomy to school leaders to draw on best practice from outside. He warned that the current plans have usurped this original objective and are based on a political ideology to take control away from local authorities, instead of a focus on improving results.

He said: “In high-performing localities, we appear to be confronting problems that don’t exist, rather than concentrating on using flexibility and autonomy as weapons to tackle underperformance where standards have to be raised – the original objective of academies.”

The former Education Secretary said that he believes these plans could lead to expensive structural change with no focus on improving what happens in the classroom.

He also questions how local authorities can be expected to meet their statutory obligations regarding children’s education if they are stripped of powers relating to school planning and improvement.

He added: “How, we should ask, are local authorities to be expected to fulfil their statutory obligation to find places for all children in their areas when they no longer have oversight of school improvement and planning and do not have the power to determine school expansion? It makes no sense. Not only are we addressing problems that do not exist in many parts of the country but we are stripping local councils of the means to address the real crisis over school places by removing their remaining powers.”

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