In a major policy volte-face, Theresa May’s government scrapped David Cameron’s ambitions to turn schools into academies. The announcement made by Education Secretary Justine Greening mentioned to MPs that the flagship bill, comprised of in David cameron’s last Queen’s speech has been done away with completely after a series of hitches and despite a wide array of proposals.
She further added in the second-to-last paragraph of a written statement in the Commons that the Bill, which was introduced by the then education secretary Nicky Morgan and shelved in May post a Tory backbench revolt threatened to inflict a Government defeat will be dropped altogether because “Our ambition remains that all schools should benefit from the freedom and autonomy that academy status brings,”
“Our focus, however, is on building capacity in the system and encouraging schools to convert voluntarily.”
“No changes to legislation are required for these purposes and therefore we do not require wider education legislation in this session to make progress on our ambitious education agenda.”
Applauding it as the right decision, Councillor Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board said “Councils have been clear from the outset that the proposals within the Bill focused too heavily on structures, when our shared ambition is on improving education for all children,”. In particular, both the forced academisation of schools in areas considered to be ‘unviable’, and the removal of the council role in school improvement, went against evidence that council-maintained schools perform more highly than academies and free schools in Ofsted inspections, and that conversion to academies did not in itself lead to better results.”
This move by the government also implies that it is well on its way to push forward the Prime Minister’s contentious policy of bringing back Grammar schools. With the Children and Social Work bill and the higher education and research bill already in the process and with the announcement of the technical and further education bill on Thursday, The Department of Education’s permanent secretary Jonathan Slater seems determined to reduce the workload lead by the loose ends of the controversial bill and Greening is rumoured to have been convinced almost immediately.
Local authorities remain skeptical that while on the one hand the end of this bill means continued power in the hands of councils with regards to school improvement and support- a planned budget cut would anyway leave them with few resources to help schools.