Tory plan on academies faces cross-party opposition

Tory plan on academies faces cross-party opposition
In a letter to the Observer, the parties join forces with independent councillors across England against proposals that they say are contrary to the wishes of many parents and teachers, would be hugely expensive, and fail to address the real problems in the schools’ system.

The council leaders say there is “no evidence” that academies perform better than council-maintained schools and insist that the focus must be on delivering the best education for children rather than the legal structures within which schools have to work.

The formation of a cross-party alliance comes amid signs that ministers face an uphill struggle if and when they try to force the plans announced by George Osborne in his budget through Parliament.

Many Tory MPs believe that, while the direction of the government’s policy is correct, the speed of change is too great and the plan to impose reforms on already high-performing schools is misguided. One Tory MP said: “Without doubt this will face difficulties in parliament if it gets into the Queen’s Speech. There will be pressure on us from constituents, particularly worried parents. ”

Yesterday education secretary Nicky Morgan insisted that there would be no U-turn when she became the first Tory minister in the role to address a teachers’ union conference since the 1990s.

“There will be no pulling back from that vision, there is no reverse gear when it comes to our reforms,” she told delegates to the NAS/UWT’s gathering.Tory plan on academies faces cross-party opposition

She spoke as the National Union of Teachers conference decided to ballot for strike action after members rejected the white paper.

Morgan told the NAS/UWT that it had no option but to back her. “There isn’t another government just around the corner,” she said. “Teaching unions have a choice – spend the next four years doing battle with us and doing down the profession they represent, or stepping up, seizing the opportunities offered by the white paper and helping us to shape the future of the education system.”

But her hopes of winning them over were quickly dashed when the NAS/UWT’s general secretary Chris Keates responded by calling on her to rethink the plan, which would see 16,000 schools, mainly primaries, moved from local authority oversight to control by chains of unelected academy trusts by 2022, across England.

“Don’t allow yourself to become the next Iain Duncan Smith; listen to the concerns being raised,” Keates said.

In their letter the Local Government Association leaders say the plans have “caused enormous concern among councillors across the political spectrum.”

They add: “We urge the government to listen to the concerns of families, teachers, unions, politicians and experts and rethink the proposals in the white paper.”

Morgan has been called to appear before the all-party education select committee to discuss the plans.

Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said ministers were out of touch with the country. “What’s becoming very clear is that the government is no longer concerned with school improvement, but with an ideological reorganisation of schools. That is a dangerous position to find themselves in.”

The Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams, who as a Labour education secretary introduced parent governors, said the reforms would face widespread opposition in the House of Lords.

“To end the role of parent governors who are responsible to and devoted to their schools, is to destroy a key relationship. I brought them in, alongside teacher governors, 40 years ago.

“I fear their abolition may be the beginning of the privatisation of primary schools. That would be a tragedy for children, their parents and grandparents, and eventually for the whole country.”

There was scattered laughter and some jeering during the education secretary’s speech. Morgan told the audience: “The education system is in much better shape than it was five years ago – the evidence speaks for itself.”

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