Nicky Morgan’s attempt to force all schools to become academies by 2022 exposed the huge opposition from parents, teachers and many politicians to turning good local authority schools into academies (no matter the process and no matter the academy sponsor). Yet, despite being forced to back down on her original proposal, Nicky Morgan is still determined to force many more schools to become academies and wants to see all schools convert. It’s now clear that she intends to replace her original blunt proposal with a more piecemeal and devious plan – one that is no less a threat to local schools. We now know that the Queen’s Speech will announce the intention to further add to the powers she’s already used to force many schools to become academies. These new powers will include disregarding local governors and local elected councillors and even forcing local councils to hand over all their schools if she, or her unelected, unaccountable and shadowy Regional Schools Commissioners, so decide.
Many commentators and educationalists are pointing out there has been no reversal of policy. James Williams, Lecturer in Education at the University of Sussex told Hands Off Our Schools Brighton & Hove, “This apparent U-turn is no such thing. This is a U-bend, which like its plumbing namesake, contains a trap. “The objective of full academisation remains. It will be achieved in other, much more punitive ways. The Government is still peddling the false belief that academisation achieves improvements in schools faster than leaving them in the hands of the local authority, a claim that has been disproved time and again.”
So far, Nicky Morgan has declined to provide the details of how she will deem schools and local councils to be subject to her new powers but, it seems, the new tougher SATs may have a role. Many believe that the new SATs have been designed to fail many schools (as well as, distressingly, children) and, if so, this will make it easier for Government to force schools to become academies. Within days of Nicky Morgan’s change of tack, The Sunday Times reported, “As many as 1,000 primary schools are expected to be turned into academies after failing to ensure that sufficient 11-year-olds pass the new tougher national tests in maths and English”. And an analysis of existing data by the respected on line newspaper Schools Week has revealed that the large majority of local councils likely to be targeted by Nicky Morgan’s changed tack are run by Labour administrations.
Unintentionally, Nicky Morgan’s botched attempt to force all schools to become academies in a single blow and the forcing of new SATs on schools (despite the chaos surrounding them and the inability of the Schools Minister to understand them) has exposed the Machiavellian wiring behind her education policies. We can now see how toughened SATs and the proposals to remove parent governors are linked to a disregard for local democracy and the undermining, and under funding, of local councils and attempts to force schools to become academies (and grab the land).
The thousands of Brighton & Hove residents who signed petitions against forced academies, the hundreds of local parents who took action against the spiteful SATs, the teachers and governors who have raised serious concerns at the way education policy is turning schools into factory farms and the politicians who have described academisation as ‘pre privatisation’ are all opposing policies that undermine children’s education. A new consensus is emerging: the ideological nonsense behind this Government’s failing education policies must stop. We need new proposals for education policies that are intent on promoting good local schools, accountable to parent governors and local councils, and focused on providing children with a broad curriculum – not obsessed with testing.