EDUCATION leaders have welcomed a government U-turn on plans to turn all schools into academies.
Peter Edgar, the Gosport councillor in charge of Hampshire’s schools, had spoken to The News of his grave fears about the impact of the policy, which could have seen all local authority schools become academies by 2022.
Academies are independently run – but state-funded – schools, overseen by a not-for-profit business, known as an academy trust.
Cllr Edgar was strongly against schools being forced to become academies – particularly when 85 per cent of Hampshire’s council-run schools were good or outstanding in the last round of Ofsted inspections.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has now said that well-performing schools will retain the choice on whether to convert.
Cllr Edgar said the choice should be made by the school, not the government.
He said: ‘We are strictly neutral over the designation our schools.
‘We believe that the school community – governors, parents, senior staff – should decide what is the designation of their school.
‘We do not believe in any form of force or coercion.
‘I don’t believe it should be imposed by politicians.
‘The parents, governors and teaching staff know what is best for their school in their particular area.
‘We accept any direction they make about their future.’
Headteachers across The News patch had spoken of their concerns.
Howard Payne, headteacher of Medina Primary School, in Cosham, did not agree with the ‘one size fits all approach’.
He said: ‘There’s no convincing evidence that academisation improves attainment.’
In Hambledon, there were worries that academisation would mean the end of small, rural schools, which are traditionally less cost-effective to run.
In a letter to his local MP, George Hollingbery, the chairman of Hambledon Parish Council, Dr John Thornton, said the policy was ‘unworkable’.
Mrs Morgan told the BBC in an interview: ‘This is about being a listening government and I would consider myself to be a listening secretary of state.
‘We absolutely support those strong local authorities where schools are good and outstanding – they can make the choice to convert.’