As local election results came out on 6 May, the Conservative government tried to slip out another humiliating u-turn as quietly as it could. Having previously insisted on forcing all schools to become academies by 2022, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan backed down in the face of significant opposition from parents, teachers, governors and politicians.
Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell responded to the policy change by saying:
It is frankly a humiliating climbdown for David Cameron and his education secretary, who just weeks ago were insisting they would plough on with the policy regardless.
The Local Government Association’s Roy Perry, meanwhile, said:
We are delighted that the government is listening to our strong opposition to forced academisation, which has been echoed by MPs, teachers and parents and backed up by evidence.
But there’s a catch
The u-turn has only been partial. While ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools will no longer be forced to convert, the Department for Education (DfE) will still give itself sweeping powers to push ‘underperforming’ schools to become academies.
Watch Nicky Morgan squirm below as she claims to have listened to professionals – in spite of previously telling them in a very stubborn way that she had “no reverse gear when it comes to our education reforms”:
The government’s education white paper also still includes controversial plans to remove parents’ rights to representation on academy boards of governors and to allow head teachers to award qualifications to members of staff. And as Lucy Powell insists, there are a number of other challenges which should be a priority for the government:
Ministers must urgently tackle the serious problems they have created in education, including school budgets falling in real terms for the first time in 20 years, chronic shortages of teachers, not enough good school places, and chaos and confusion in the exams system
What we can learn from this most recent government u-turn, however, is that vocal opposition from citizens and professionals does have the power to change government plans – no matter how difficult it may seem at points.
– Find your local Anti Academies Alliance group here.
– Write to your MP to tell them what you think about the government’s plans for the education system.
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