David Cameron is reportedly planning a humiliating climb down on his forced privatisation of schools in England.
In the face of mounting opposition, Nicky Morgan is set to allow ‘the best-performing local councils to run academy chains’. Considering academisation is the transfer of control from elected local councils to private-sector academy chains, this could represent a near 180 degree U-turn.
Embarrassingly, Morgan said only last week:
Rightly we will, of course, continue discussions about specific elements of the white paper, but yes, I’m absolutely confident there is very, very broad support for our policy of schools becoming academies.
Opposition to the radical top-down reorganisation of the entire English education system has come from parents, students, governors, Councillors and Labour. But according to The Times (firewall)– who broke this story – the U-turn is to appease opposition from up to 40 Tory rebels.
The government has downplayed the U-turn as media speculation, but with a majority of just 17 in the Commons and fierce cross-party opposition – including from Tory MPs – the wholesale academisation plans must be watered down if they are to pass in parliament.
The Department for Education refused to give any details. A spokesman told The Canary:
Our education reforms are raising standards and 1.4million more children are now in good or outstanding schools.
Our White Paper reforms are the next step in ensuring every child has access to an excellent education by putting control in the hands of the teachers and school leaders who know their pupils best. We want to work constructively with the sector to deliver this and ensure standards continue to rise.
When a school becomes an academy the deeds and land are handed over to unaccountable academy chains on a 150 year lease for a peppercorn rent. While academies may be funded by the state, they are now owned by private sector interest.
From 2010 to the present, schools have been allowed to become academies if they ‘voluntarily choose to’. However, this choice was not as voluntary as the government made out. From 2010, the Conservatives cut the education budget by 25% over four years. At the same time, they told schools that they will award them £25,000 and increase their budget by up to 10% if they become academies. Thus, schools do not choose to become academies because they believe they are better, but to survive arbitrary austerity conditions imposed by the government.
Now the government’s policy is nationwide forced academisation at a cost of £1.5bn, siphoning money away from an already squeezed education budget. Cameron spent Prime Minister’s Questions last week vehemently defending the plans, making a U-turn all the more humiliating.
Cameron has continued to say local authority schools are the problem, and academies the answer:
Local authority schools are often left to fail year after year after year.
I think one year of a failing school is one year too many so let’s encourage academies, let’s build a great education system and let’s have opportunity for all our children.
George Osborne concurs:
It is simply unacceptable that Britain continues to sit too low down the global league tables for education. So I’m going to get on with finishing the job we started five years ago, to drive up standards and set schools free from the shackles of local bureaucracy.
According to the government, academies are effective because they take power away from local government and hand it to the academy chains. But if these ‘academy chains’ are now being run by the councils themselves, what’s the difference? The concession could represent a full U-turn from the government on the nation’s ‘best-performing’ schools.
If it goes ahead, this climb down could represent a huge victory for campaigners. However, considering there is no evidence academies perform better, this ideological move should be rejected completely.
-If you’re sleeping at the wheel and haven’t done it yet, SIGN the petition calling for a referendum on academisation.
– Sign the other one, too.
–Get involved with the Anti-Academies Alliance.
–Support The Canary so we can continue to bring you the stories that matter.
–Write to your MP, and tell them what you think about this wholesale move to academies.
Featured image via Twitter (@PMOTUK)