Morgan U-turn: New plan puts schools in Labour areas at greatest risk of forced academisation

Councils potentially at risk of being branded as failing and having all their schools converted into academies – under new government plans revealed today – are overwhelmingly Labour-run.

The government announced a climb-down this afternoon on its white paper proposals to force all schools into academies by 2022.

Instead, ministers plan to introduce new laws giving powers to trigger conversion of all schools in an area if a council is deemed as underperforming.

The Department for Education would not reveal further details of how a council’s performance will be measured when asked.

But Schools Week has found that most councils named as underperforming by Ofsted in its annual report last year are Labour-controlled.

A total of 13 local authorities were named by Sir Michael Wilshaw as “failing” in the north of England or the Midlands. All but one are run by the Labour party.

The Labour councils are Barnsley; Blackpool; Bradford; Derbyshire; Doncaster; Hartlepool; Knowsley; Liverpool; Middlesbrough; Oldham; Salford and St Helens.

Stoke-on-Trent has no overall control, but Labour has the largest number of councillors.

Another three councils named as failing by Wilshaw. Swindon and South Gloucestershire are Conservative-run, and the Isle of Wight has no overall control, but the largest number of councillors are independent.

The concessions in the academies plan was forced by an uprising from backbench Tory MPs – who were particularly concerned about the potential impact on smaller schools in rural areas.

These findings suggest the government’s new proposals would protect these areas from forced academisation.

Another list of 10 councils whose school improvement arrangements have been criticised by Ofsted are also mostly Labour.

Five of these councils are controlled by the Labour party,  three are Conservative-run and two have no overall control but Labour have the largest number of councillors.



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  1. Sarah

    There will be many outstanding schools in areas with a high proportion of underperforming schools that would rightly be outraged if they were forced into academisation for the sin of being located in a such a local authority area. Some of the named authorities have small rural schools which are good or outstanding where one assumes the local authority’s influence has been good or at least benign.

    • David

      This policy also perpetuates the convenient Tory myth that local authorities run schools. They don’t. So if the governors of an outstanding school elect to remain under the banner of a local authority, on what basis is their careful consideration of the costs and benefits of different arrangements to be challenged and turned into compulsion?

    • Patto

      Do we really credit Morgan with that degree of guile? This government will always try to sell the appearance rather than the substance, otherwise why the repeated mantra of “council-run schools”, i.e. an Aunt Sally argument. It seems to me that Morgan has no coherent educational approach of her own and seeks simply to run with Gove’s rather dogmatic “creative disruption”. No.10 is less dogmatic and appears to have been spooked by opposition from more pragmatic Tory traditionalists. I can’t see her remaining in position post the Brexit vote. Cameron got rid of Andrew Lansley when his NHS structural reforms lost traction. Too accident-prone.