Lucy Powell: Labour will work with Conservative rebels to oppose academies plan

Labour will work with back-bench Conservatives to oppose government plans to turn all schools into academies, Lucy Powell has confirmed.

The shadow education secretary said she was willing to work with anybody to “win the arguments” against the proposals set out in the government’s white paper, including Conservative MPs with concerns about the academies plan.

The Conservative backbench 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady is the latest high-profile party figure to come out against the plans. His intervention comes after Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire’s cabinet member for education, joined the leaders of several teaching unions and politicians including Ms Powell in signing a letter to the Telegraph calling for a re-think.

Schools minister Nick Gibb this morning defended the government’s plan to have every state school converted into an academy by 2022, when he was interviewed at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference, saying “it is about making sure we don’t have two systems of oversight”.

But Ms Powell, who received a far less frosty welcome at the event in Liverpool than Mr Gibb, told journalists after her appearance that it was becoming “increasingly clear” how few people supported the plans, and said a “growing alliance” against academisation may force the government to “look again”.

Repeating her preference for a strengthened oversight role for councils, Ms Powell admitted the parliamentary maths meant opponents would have to focus on “winning the arguments, rather than winning votes in Parliament”.

Legislation on the forced academisation of schools is yet to be introduced in Parliament and although the Conservatives have only a slim majority in the House of Commons, a large number of the party’s MPs would have to rebel to defeat it, because Scottish National Party MPs are unlikely to vote on an issue affecting just England.

ATL members are expected to vote tomorrow on possible strike action over the impact on pay and conditions of the white paper plans. The National Union of Teachers has already committed to a ballot of members.

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  1. Jenny Lloyd

    The trouble is that if your school is judged ‘requiring improvement’ or worse, you’ll be forced to become an academy. You might be ‘good’ now but that judgement might change. What’s the best course of action for governors: be proactive and find the best possible arrangement to secure the future of your school or wait and see? And add in another factor: many primary schools around you seem to be rushing to become academies. A real challenge this for a primary school with a distinctive character and much to be proud of, but turbulence ahead on the standards front.

    • This is a really tricky question for governors. I’m Chair of two ‘good’ schools and we’ve put off the decision but are actively now looking at the options so we’d be ready to roll if it becomes necessary. We are looking at Umbrella Trust solutions rather than joining a faceless MAT

  2. Sarah

    Nick Gibb says we can’t have two separate systems. So pray tell why have they created that situation? Didn’t they realise this would be an issue before they started?

    This was always going to be their strategy – bribe the willing, bully as many of the unwilling into jumping, ensure all new schools have to be academies at a time when large numbers of new schools are needed, court the churches and give them more power – and then when you think you’ve got to a tipping point, having created absolute chaos in your wake, offer to simplify things by forcing the rest into the system you wanted in the first place. Nick Gibb seems to have overlooked one tiny detail – academisation makes no difference to the quality of education. None, zero, nada. But hey let’s spend a couple of billion on it just to crush the unions and take schools away from local government.