Damian Hinds has criticised Labour’s plans to put a halt to the academies programme, labelling them as “reckless”.
The education secretary said returning academies and free schools to local authority oversight would “turn the clock back on the successful education reforms we have enacted”, and on “the 1.9 million more children at good or outstanding schools”.
Though Labour hasn’t said it will return all schools immediately to local authority oversight, Angela Rayner pledged on Monday to give councils sweeping new powers over academies, including the right to take over academies when their sponsors fail.
Writing for the Conservative Home website, Hinds spoke of his respect for Rayner as a “kind, thoughtful, hard-working and engaging” person, but said it was “just plain wrong” to say that academies and free schools “neither improve standards nor empower staff or parents”.
“The reforms of the last eight years show that autonomy and freedom in the hands of brilliant leaders and outstanding teachers can deliver an excellent education,” he said.
“Let’s look at what the academies and free school programme has actually done to our education system. Half a million children now study in a good or outstanding sponsored academy, which was typically a previously failing school.
“Of the schools taken out of local authority control and made into a sponsored academy, 65 per cent have seen their grades improve from inadequate to either good or outstanding. These were the schools that had been left to fail for decades – the ones that no one wanted their kids to go to, but had no choice.”
Hinds said Labour politicians were “kidding themselves” if they can’t see that the government’s reforms are “improving the education of our young people then they are kidding themselves”.
“Indeed, Labour’s approach under Corbyn goes further than just opposing successful Conservative policy.
“Even New Labour knew the value in starting to free up underperforming schools from local education authority control. Rayner wants the Blair-era academies back in the “mainstream public sector”, as she puts it, as well. Does Labour really think parents will thank them?”