David Cameron came under fire during ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ after Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn cited opposition to the “top down reorganisation” of schools from teachers, parents and some Tory MPs.
The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged David Cameron to “think again” over the plans to force all schools to become academies as he tried to capitalise on Tory splits over the controversial proposals. Recently Conservative MPs have questioned the wisdom of forcing all schools to make the switch, which will prove to have a greater impact on rural schools especially if academy chains are not willing to take them over.
The Labour leader continually reminded the Prime Minister that his policy was not widely shared by various members of his own party as well as unions and teachers throughout the country. The Labour leader named Former Education Secretary Kenneth Baker, the Conservative MP Graham Brady and various other Tory backbenchers as being opposed to forcing schools to change their status.
One Conservative backbencher, Andrew Percy, said it was “a very hard sell” to tell good to outstanding schools that they must change their governance arrangements. “The government needs to do a lot more before it’s convinced myself and a lot of backbenchers that forcing academisation is necessary.”
The enforced change has long been criticised by school unions with the three main unions, the NUT, NASUWT and ATL, all voting to oppose the plans. However, when the Labour leader asked Mr Cameron why he was forcing through the measure and ignoring the warnings from his own Tory colleagues, the Prime Minister responded “The short answer is because we want schools to be run by head teachers and teachers and not by bureaucrats…we also support it because of the clear evidence of academies, if you look at converter academies 88% of them are good or outstanding…the results are better, education’s improving, I say let’s complete the work.”
However, this isn’t necessarily true! SchoolDash, (a website which compiles data on schools using information from Department for Education and the Office for National Statistics) showed that the change in status had little to no impact on schools rated good to outstanding. Yet the Prime Minister stood firm on his policy stating that good to outstanding schools “have nothing to fear from becoming academies, but a huge amount to gain by letting headteachers run their schools.”
Mr Corbyn accused the Tory leader of living in a ‘fantasy land’ with Mr Cameron clearly being oblivious to the anger people feel over his plans to convert all schools. “The IFS states that school spending is expected to fall by at least 7% in real terms in the next four years, the biggest cut since the 1970s. Why on earth is the Prime Minister proposing to spend £1.3bn on a top-down reorganisation that wasn’t in his manifesto?”
So is Mr Cameron right to continue with his plan to convert all schools? Or should the Prime Minister take the advice of Mr Corbyn, teaching unions and some of his own Parliament members and rethink this new policy. Academies have shown to have a positive impact on struggling schools yet little to none on good to outstanding. So should the Prime Minister stick to his initial plan of only converting schools that are underachieving and leaving good to outstanding alone? What do you think have your say here…