Academies U-Turn? More of a detour!
The headlines have screamed of a Government U-turn on their academy policy since the Friday 6 May that not all schools would be forced to become academies. However, reading the detail of the Parliamentary announcement made by Ms Morgan on Monday 9 May, the reality may be a little different to the political spin and the headlines.
In any event, schools should not lose sight of the significant additional powers contained in the Education and Adoption Act 2016 which became law in April to force schools to become academies. Schools which are found by Ofsted to be inadequate and schools 'causing concern' can now be forced to become academies. The practical effect of these provisions is already being seen in a number of areas where Regional School Commissioners are sending warning notices to all schools below floor standard irrespective of their Ofsted rating. All this is happening even before the 'coasting schools' provisions start to bite.
What is clear from Ms Morgan's statement on Monday 9 May is that there is no change in the direction of travel. In her statement she said "We still want every school to become an academy by 2022" and "There will be no retreat from our mission".
However, the bit the media and commentators have chosen to focus on is the comment that "it is not necessary to take blanket powers to convert good schools in strong local authorities". This has been branded a U-turn. What has not been given the attention it merits is the reference to good schools in a strong local authority. Note the use of the word strong; not okay, not average but strong. It will be interesting to see how many local authorities satisfy this test. Any local authority which has stepped away from directly providing school improvement services must surely fail this assessment.
In addition, it would not be a huge surprise if we found that the new fairer funding review for schools resulted in maintained schools being in a worse position than academies. As a speculative example, the new formula might take no account of the amounts that local authorities top slice from maintained school budgets. This could be in excess of 10% of a school's budget.
All in all, it might be more accurate to characterise recent developments as a small detour rather than a U-turn.