Tory MPs express concern over plans for academies
Tory MPs have expressed major concerns about controversial Government plans to force all schools to become academies.
A Labour-led debate on the issue saw Conservative backbenchers repeatedly ask the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan why the proposals are needed when schools which want to become an academy already have the power to do so.
Tory Steve Brine (Winchester) said he had "many questions" about the plans, adding: "If I were to sum up the concerns expressed to me by teachers locally it would be confusion, I think, as to why something that is so obviously not broken needs fixing."
Richard Drax, Conservative MP for South Dorset said that "one cap fits all always makes me nervous and that a natural progression from one to the other, as has been suggested by other colleagues, is probably the best way to go rather than imposition".
Meanwhile, James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) said he could not understand why outstanding schools that do not want to become academies are going to be forced to do so.
He said: "And what I fundamentally struggle with is a very simple point that I should go to them and say despite the fact that your school is outstanding, that all of your staff are working brilliantly and delivering fantastic education, that we are now going to force you to become an academy."
Will Quince (Colchester) also joined the ranks of Tory MPs warning against sweeping academisation as he urged his party to leave well-performing schools alone.
"I fear that by forcing schools to become academies, especially when they don't want to, it will be an unnecessary shake-up, both for the school and for the local council," he said.
There are fears that forced academisation could lead to industrial action with the ATL, the NUT and NASUWT teaching unions all opposed to the plans which are set out in the Government's Educational Excellence Everywhere White Paper.
Concerns have also been raised about a proposal which would mean that reserved places for elected parents on governing boards would no longer be required by academy trusts.
Responding to the concerns, Ms Morgan said the Government was allowing six years for the changes to take place.
She added: "We want parents not just to be engaged via governing bodies but we want them to be engaged via parent councils, by the ability to make complaints, to be involved in their child's education, to be aware of how their child is being taught. There are many, many more ways in addition to being parent governors."
Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell insisted the Government's proposals have "no evidence base" and would heap pressure on schools already struggling with sweeping reforms and budget cuts.
She said: "This is a Government which says it's for choice in education.
"Choice? What choice is there in a one size fits all policy?"
Labour's motion called for the plans to be put on hold while a Government amendment sought to defend them.
The Government amendment was backed by 302 votes to 204, a majority of 98.
A vote on the amended motion was then won by 297 votes to 201, a majority of 96.