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Academisation U-turn a 'shot in the arm' to campaign for more changes - NUT boss

Published 07/05/2016

Nicky Morgan says the Government is dropping plans to force all schools in England to become academies
Nicky Morgan says the Government is dropping plans to force all schools in England to become academies

The Government's U-turn over forced academisation will be a "shot in the arm" for disgruntled teachers to push for further concessions, a leading union figure has said.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said the ill-fated plan to strip 17,000 schools from local authority control sent teachers to "breaking point" and the brink of quitting the industry.

And he said Education Secretary Nicky Morgan's climb-down on Friday, less than two months after the academisation plans were announced as part of George Osborne's Budget, has not served to temper concerns.

He said fears over teacher recruitment levels, workload and controversial SATs testing for seven- and 11-year-olds continue to linger.

Mr Courtney said: "It's been a really intense two months. We've had an NUT member put a petition up on the Government website which attracted 100,000 signatures in the first week.

"We've had widespread protests at cities across the country, and we've had parents meeting in our headquarters determined to make a difference.

"Academisation brought an opening-up of other issues as well.

"People were talking about funding cuts, SATs, assessments, pay and conditions.

"It feels to me as though teachers have reached breaking point."

He said the Government's "arrogance" over the forced privatisation of state schools in England by 2020 "angered" teachers and parents - particularly due to the stoicism from education ministers when repeatedly challenged about the prospect of backing down.

"That anger is not going to go away now we've had the U-turn," Mr Courtney said.

"People are saying to me that this is not enough. The backing down on this is not enough.

"They say we have 'got to do something about SATs'. There are huge problems with budget cuts.

"We've reached a point where a decision needs to be made. That feeling that we need to do something about the problems is helped by chaos in the Department of Education.

"I met a woman, a teacher in her 40s, at Euston station who told me she was quitting teaching because of forced academisation. What she said is sadly not untypical. People were saying this (academisation) is too much.

"I think the U-turn will be a shot in the arm to campaign for more changes."

The Department for Education (DfE) said ministers had listened to feedback from MPs, teachers, school leaders and parents since publishing the proposals in a White Paper in March.

Officials stressed the Government was still committed to seeing all schools becoming academies, but new laws forcing the "blanket conversion" of all schools will no longer be necessary.

In the last month 104 directive academy orders have been issued to failing schools, while the most recent monthly figures show 227 schools have put in applications to convert - the highest since the programme began.

The Government is also set to introduce powers which could trigger the conversion of all schools within a local authority if it is failing to meet a "minimum performance threshold".

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