What teachers' leaders think of the DfE's U-turn on forced academisation

The government has announced a U-turn on its plans to force all state schools to become academies by 2022. Now teaching unions respond

Adi Bloom

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'Hard of hearing'

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teachers' union:

“For a listening government, Nicky Morgan has been very hard of hearing. It’s taken the combined opposition of school leaders, teachers, local councillors, Tory MPs, parents and governors to get them to back down on a policy that was never needed and was highly unwelcome.

“What the government has succeeded in doing is exposing the weaknesses in its academies programme, and for that we should be grateful. There’s a great deal in the White Paper to continue to oppose, and we will do so.”

'Without the shadow of compulsion'

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union:

“It’s good news, isn’t it? We’ve raised these concerns; they’ve listened to the concerns. Now we can have a conversation about the White Paper which can be a lot more constructive.

“The White Paper is a massive document, and we’ve only talked about one aspect of it. People will be able to respond more constructively to it now, without the shadow of compulsion hanging over them.”

'Humiliating failure'

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union:

“This is another humiliating failure for the chancellor of the exchequer. Teachers, school leaders and schools have been subjected to an unnecessary period of anxiety and panic as a result of his ill-conceived and politically motivated statement, which did not even command the support of the Tory rank and file, particularly in local councils, and caused rebellion in his own ranks.

“It is disgraceful that teachers and school leaders, already under enormous pressure and stress, were ever subjected to this. Although the plan to convert every school to an academy has been dropped, the government is still subjecting schools in particular Ofsted categories to forced academisation and still regards structural change as the answer to raising standards.

"This aspect of the academisation policy has not changed and the NASUWT will continue to challenge it.”

'Unfair and unnecessary'

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders:

“Virtually everybody in education disagreed with this policy, and it is good to see that the secretary of state has made this concession, although we note that full academisation remains the government’s aspiration.

“Certainly, the plan to compel all schools to become academies was unfair and unnecessary, and we wrote recently to the secretary of state strongly expressing our disagreement. We know that the government shares our belief in an education system with schools at the forefront leading improvement. It is a contradiction in such a system for government to seek to impose structures on every school from above.

“We look forward to working with the government on other aspects of the White Paper that are also vitally important. The most pressing issues facing schools are the ongoing crises in funding and teacher recruitment. We have to sort out these issues to maintain existing standards and make further improvements.”

'Ideological nonsense'

Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT teaching union:

“This is a huge government climbdown and is a testament to the campaigning of teachers and parents. Within a week of the White Paper being published, demonstrations occurred across the country organised by NUT members. Two petitions calling for a halt to the proposal to force all schools to become academies reached 150,000 signatures each, and 200 parents met at the NUT headquarters. This was an unprecedented outcry.

“This is the third major education U-turn by the government. In a month we have seen baseline scrapped, SPaG key stage 1 tests scrapped and now the central plank of the White Paper, forced academies. This is a clear indication that government policy is in tatters. Nicky Morgan needs to stop and talk to the profession to work out a clear way forward.

"It is time to end this ideological nonsense for this discredited government. They need to start adopting the right priorities for education by talking to the profession. They should not take extra powers to force all schools in specified local authorities to become academies.”

'Surprising but welcome'

Deborah Lawson, general secretary of the Voice union:

"I am delighted that the government has listened to the strong arguments against compulsory academisation. This is a surprising but welcome U-turn. We always questioned the benefit of becoming an academy for the many good and outstanding local-authority schools across the country.

"We hope that ministers will remain in listening mode when it comes to other aspects of the White Paper that we have concerns about, such as the replacement of Qualified Teacher Status and the roles of local authorities and regional schools commissioners."

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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