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‘An emphatic commitment to reverse academisation is absent in the Labour manifesto. Why?’

For years, the hard left and trade unions – including Jeremy Corbyn – have railed against academisation as 'privatisation' – and yet reversing the process isn’t explicitly spelt out in today’s Labour manifesto

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For years, the hard left and trade unions – including Jeremy Corbyn – have railed against academisation as 'privatisation' – and yet reversing the process isn’t explicitly spelt out in today’s Labour manifesto

The weirdest thing in the Labour manifesto – at least from an education perspective – is what it has to say, or rather not say, about academies and local authorities.

Given that the document proposes the wholesale nationalisation of whole swathes of the economy – water, energy, mail – it stops short of saying in black-and-white terms that existing academies would be returned to local authority control.

It merely says that it would “oppose any attempt to force schools to become academies”, and then goes on: “Labour will ensure that all schools are democratically accountable, including appropriate controls to see that they serve the public interest and their local communities. We will require joined-up admissions policies across local schools to enable councils to fulfil their responsibilities on child places, to simplify the admissions process for parents and to ensure that no child slips through the net.”

Speaking at the launch this morning, Corbyn said academies and free schools should “work within the local family of school”.

All of which hints at some kind of reversal of the process of widespread academisation, but stops short of baldly stating that. In fact, a quick keyword search tells us that there is only one reference to “academies” in the whole manifesto.

This is odd, especially when contrasted with the emphatic language used for the nationalisation Mr Corbyn wants to see in rail, mail, water and energy, all of which would be infinitely more complex, controversial and expensive than returning to a model of local authority control over schools.

“Labour will...bring key utilities back into public ownership to deliver lower prices, more accountability and a more sustainable economy.”

'No evidence that academies improve standards'

For many years, the so-called “privatisation” of education through the process of academisation has been a cause celebre for the union movement and their hard and radical left bedfellows – including Mr Corbyn, John McDonnell and the rest of the gang.

Indeed, speaking to the NUT teaching union conference in 2016, Mr Corbyn said: "I want schools accountable to their parents and their communities – not as a process of asset-stripping our facilities to be handed over to somebody else.”

"There is not a shred of evidence that academies improve standards.”

And yet reversing acadmisation is not explicitly in his manifesto. One question: Why? Is it because they reckon academies are popular with parents?

Ed Dorrell is head of content at Tes. He tweets @Ed_Dorrell

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