General Election 2015 – the end of choice?

Many people involved in the world of education will be reeling today as the realisation dawns that we have a Conservative majority Government, something that seemed unlikely even after the polls closed on election day. The implications for state schools are huge.

For those schools hoping that a change of Government would save them from being converted into academies, those hopes have been dashed. There is now not even a coalition partner to temper the Conservatives headlong rush to academies all schools.

Our advice for maintained schools is, if you want to guide your own destiny, act decisively now.

As we have trailed for the last year, the right for maintained schools to direct their own fortunes has been reduced and restricted. The direction of travel for the last five years has been towards academisation. The last year to eighteen months has seen the DfE and the Regional School Commissioners reduce and restrict the freedom for schools to become academies on their own or to choose their own academy partners. There has been a move towards directing schools considering becoming academies to preferred existing academy trusts and sponsors. New trusts are more and more difficult to establish and the existing trusts are expanding rapidly.

The Conservative manifesto states that

"….we will introduce new powers to force coasting schools to accept new leadership. Any school judged by Ofsted to be requiring improvement will be taken over by the best headteachers – backed by expert sponsors or high-performing neighbouring schools – unless it can demonstrate that it has a plan to improve rapidly"

What are the options for those maintained schools still hoping to avoid becoming academies? Sadly for those who believe in self-determination and choice, very few. At the moment, if you can ensure you remain good or outstanding and financially robust then you should be able to avoid being forced to become an academy, for now. However, our view is that this is likely to change before the end of this Parliament and even good and outstanding schools will be forced to convert.