Government climbdown over forced academies

Fantastic news for UNISON’s school-based members: plans to force all of England’s schools to become academies are being abandoned in a major government climbdown.

The move comes days after threats of industrial action by head teachers, and the prospect of joint action between NUT and UNISON members.

The controversial plans to require all schools to convert to academy status, or have plans to do so, by 2022 were announced in the Budget, but details followed in a white paper.

Some Conservative MPs have been voicing opposition to the plans in recent weeks, particularly because all schools – even highly performing ones – were to be forced into the new arrangements.

Labour had argued that the academies programme was already hitting problems, with a number of large-scale trusts being sanctioned for failing to improve results fast enough.

Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell said: “It is frankly a humiliating climbdown for David Cameron and his education secretary, who just weeks ago were insisting they would plough on with the policy regardless.”

Currently all schools can choose to convert to academy status, but those deemed to be struggling or failing to improve sufficiently can be forced to convert. That will remain the case under these new plans.

There is no evidence to show that academy status makes any difference to a school’s ability to meet pupil needs. What academisation does do is fragment the school system, take schools out of democratic control, and put pressure on the terms and conditions of the staff who work in schools.

UNISON West Sussex welcome this latest government U-turn.