Schools bill: Zahawi promises ‘no new burdens’ for academies

Education secretary vows not to restrict the 'very freedoms that enable academy success'

Education secretary vows not to restrict the 'very freedoms that enable academy success'


The government will not impose “any new burdens” that would restrict the “freedoms” of academies, the education secretary will promise today, further signalling plans to water down his controversial schools bill.

Speaking at the Confederation of School Trusts annual conference today, Nadhim Zahawi will acknowledge excellence was “not something that can be achieved by a list of standards, or a piece of regulation”.

But Zahawi’s own draft bill sets out in its very first clause a long list of examples of standards the government may set for academies in future.

The scope of the bill has prompted widespread criticism and claims of a “power grab” by Whitehall over schools in England.

Yesterday, academies minister Baroness Barran signalled the government’s intention to water down the bill.

Zahawi said he was “hugely proud” of the schools bill, and said baseline requirements for trusts were needed because we “don’t want those who are failing, to damage the excellent reputation that you have all worked so hard to build”.

“But let me be clear: this is not about the Department for Education telling you how to run your trusts.

“I believe – this government believes – that you know best how to deliver excellence. It is not something that can be achieved by a list of standards, or a piece of regulation.”

Zahawi acknowledged there had been “some concern about the scope of our bill”, and specifically clause one and the “possible centralisation of power over academies”.

“I hear those concerns. So let me say again; I will not impose any new burdens that would restrict the very freedoms that enable you to be such a success.”

As pledged in the schools white paper earlier this year, the government will shortly begin a review of the current regulatory and accountability system for academy trusts.

Zahawi said today this would consider “the role of commissioning, regulation and inspection”, and said the current system “wasn’t designed for a fully trust-led system comprising thousands of schools across the country”.

“Let’s put a more positive spin on it: you have become a victim of your own success.

“It is because of the increase in the number, and size, and quality of academy trusts and the many benefits you bring to pupils, parents and staff alike that we are now in a position to put the trust system on a permanent statutory footing.”

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