Government Abandons Plans To Force Schools To Become Academies

Legal Experts Welcome The Education Secretary’s Announcement


Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

Education experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell have welcomed a Government U-turn over forcing all of England’s schools to convert to academies.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan made the announcement following threats of industrial action by head teachers, concerns over the plans by education experts and MPs, and in the face of demands made by Tory rebels opposed to compelling high-performing schools to convert.

She said the move was about the government listening, adding ministers understood top schools should retain the choice on whether to convert.

Academies are state-funded schools that are run independently and overseen by an academy trust which is often part of a non-profit chain of businesses.

The plans which required all schools to convert to academy status, or have plans in place to do so, by 2022 were announced by the Chancellor George Osborne during his Budget in March.

Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Morgan said: "This is about being a listening government and I would consider myself to be a listening secretary of state. Better to have reforms than have none at all.

"We absolutely support those strong local authorities where schools are good and outstanding - they can make the choice to convert.

"I hope that they will, because we are convinced that becoming academies does lift standards but they can do the right thing for them and I think that reflects the concerns and the conversations that we have had."

Currently all schools can choose to convert to academy status, but those deemed to be struggling or failing to improve sufficiently can be forced to convert. That will remain the case under these new plans.

Expert Opinion
Becoming an academy is a major step for a school, and success requires hard work and good people including a strong independent board.

Without the right ‘ingredients’ an academy can struggle. We see many succeed but it is not obvious that forcing change on everyone will work.

The academy conversion process can put a heavy burden on school management. The government seems to have recognised what many in the sector know already – all schools are different and you can’t be too prescriptive in turning around struggling schools.
Laurence Gavin, Partner