Government backs down over academy plan

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The government has scrapped its plan to convert all schools to academy status, the BBC has revealed.

The move comes days after threats of industrial action by headteachers, many of whom had been highly critical of the proposal.

Sussex headteacher Dawn Martin was one of the first to raise concerns locally when she spoke to the Crawley Observer last year.

She said: “My view is there is absolutely no research available to support the idea that becoming an academy raises standards. It’s not a magic button and I think it’s naive to suggest that.”

Her concerns were easy to understand, especially when Nicky Morgan, secretary of state for education, refused tell the BBC how many academies were failing at the time.

Announcing the u-turn today (Friday May 6), Mrs Morgan told the BBC: “This is about being a listening government and I would consider myself to be a listening Secretary of State.”

She added: “We absolutely support those strong local authorities where schools are good and outstanding they can make the choice to convert.

“I hope that they will because we are convinced that becoming academies does lift standards but they can do the right thing for them and I think that reflects the concerns and the conversations that we have had.”

In April, West Sussex County Council joined the growing list of local authorities to speak out against the plan.

While supporting the government’s “drive to improve education standards”, council leader Louise Goldsmith said: “However, I have reservations that the ‘one size fits all’ academies approach that ministers are proposing does not seem to promote any benefits to pupils and parents in West Sussex.”

In a letter to Mrs Morgan, Mrs Goldsmith said the council felt the academies approach would mean there was “not a strong enough voice for the parent and child”.

She also warned the move would make it harder for councils to fulfil statutory duties to provide enough school places for children in West Sussex and to ensure the most vulnerable youngsters in the county got the best start in life.

With 82 per cent of county schools currently rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, Mrs Goldsmith argued there was no need to force change to improve standards and there was no evidence to suggest having all schools run by Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) would deliver better results.

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