Academy schools programme (May 2016)

I too, have been concerned about the Government’s plans to turn every school into an academy and, having received a huge volume of correspondence from constituents, I have been working hard to redefine the government’s intentions. I was particularly concerned that the programme would be overly prescriptive in one model of schooling, disregarding the variety of student talent whether in the academic or vocational sphere. The policy would also have unfairly disadvantaged rural schools with plans to create Multi Academy Trusts (MATs), in comparison to urban schools which tend to have a higher uptake, be closer together and find funding from sponsors more easily. Over the past couple of weeks I raised these concerns with Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education in a series of meetings. I also had robust discussions with Tim Coulson, Regional Schools Commissioner, regarding the impact of the proposals on rural schools and their fairer funding formula. Whilst I praised the Government’s focus on delivering educational excellence, the plan to impose academy status on all schools, in my mind, was not the right thing to do and would not deliver improved educational attainment. Many schools, whether an academy or not, already deliver an excellent education and importantly, offer choice within the system. I am therefore delighted that the Government has listened and acted to rescind the blanket imposition of the academy school status on all schools by 2022 as well as reassessing the delivery of educational excellence. A commitment to the academy schools programme will continue as a way of delivering improved education and the focus will be on helping underperforming local authority schools convert to academy status where they can benefit from the support of a strong sponsor. Moreover, the Department for Education will focus on delivering essential changes to the funding and support for rural schools to ensure they are not unfairly disadvantaged when compared to urban schools. Not enough is yet known about plans going forward. Nevertheless, I will remain vigilant with regards to the proposed changes to our education system, in order to deliver improved educational outcomes for all our schools.

May 2016