School academy plans unveiled in education White Paper

Education secretary Nicky Morgan is launching an education White Paper today setting out ‘a blueprint for a system of full academisation'of England's schools.

It follows George Osborne’s announcement yesterday that all schools will be forced to become academies.

It confirms the Government’s plans for all schools to either become academies, or be in the process of converting to academy status, by the end of 2020.

The document ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ proposes a new system of ‘supported autonomy’ that will mean that schools can drive improvement themselves but where they are struggling support can be given sooner.

It plans for the vast majority of schools to work in multi-academy trusts (MATs), allowing them to share resources, staff and expertise.

Schools that have been judged requires improvement will have a 30-month improvement period applied. Where schools have been taken over by a new academy sponsor, Ofsted will not re-inspect until their third year to give the new heads time to improve them.

Qualified Teacher Status will be abolished and replaced with ‘a new more challenging accreditation’. Instead, heads will have the power to accredit teachers when they have demonstrated classroom efficiency, including in areas such as behaviour management and subject knowledge.

Ms Morgan will say in a speech today launching the white paper, ‘We have not only the best qualified workforce in history, but also a workforce that is increasingly focused on constant self-improvement, that is driven by the evidence and which like other professions is breaking new boundaries, sharing what works, challenging one another and unleashing greatness.

‘This white paper recognises this, and goes further than any Government has done to recognise teachers as the professionals they are.’

She will add, ‘All of us in education, from politicians and civil servants in Westminster to our phenomenal teaching workforce in classrooms across the country do what we do, because we believe in the potential of the next generation.

‘This white paper is about ensuring that all of us can play the role that we do best, it’s a blueprint for how we can work together, not just to improve standards, important though that is, but to create a fundamentally different education system - an education system fit for the 21st century, an education system which is truly focused on the future.’

Union reaction

Teaching unions have slammed the plans to force schools to become academies and warned that replacing QTS could leave trainee teachers vulnerable.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said, ‘Getting rid of Qualified Teacher Status is a clear indication of how little this Government respects teachers or parents, who believe their children should be taught by a qualified teacher. Leaving schools and heads to decide whether a teacher has reached suitable standards lacks coherence. The shift towards school-based teacher education has contributed to current shortages, yet it is a policy that the White Paper wants to take even further. Finland, for example, which tops international education league tables, educates teachers to master level. This policy is going in the wrong direction and should be of concern to everyone. 

‘Many schools, including the overwhelming majority of primaries, have made a positive choice to remain maintained by their local authority. This White Paper’s proposals to turn all schools into academies will abolish that choice and instead impose an authoritarian central Government diktat on schools. So much for "localism", so much for "choice", so much for "autonomy", so much for "democracy".'

She added that small schools in particular would lose their identity, and rural schools faced an uncertain future 'as multi-academy trusts will pick and choose which schools they consider viable. It will cost the taxpayer a fortune to convert all school into academies, and all based on no evidence that academies improve the education of children.’

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said, ‘Nothing in this White Paper addresses the fundamental fault lines in English education. Ministers seem to believe that, magically, there will be enough high quality multi-academy trusts (MATs) to support the thousands of schools which they will force to become academies. But the evidence shows MATs are highly variable in quality and Sir Michael Wilshaw has said that the worst MATs are performing as badly as the worst local authorities.

‘The proposals to lengthen the period before trainee teachers are awarded qualified teacher status, and to give school leaders the authority to make the decision about awarding this is highly problematic. At a time when school budgets are being cut in real terms, there will be pressures on school leaders to delay accreditation as a way of saving wage costs. ATL will be demanding a full negotiation on this proposal so that safeguards can be put in place to stop the exploitation of trainee teachers.’

Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said, ‘The Government's attempt to show it hasn't run out of ideas for education smacks of a costly, unnecessary re-organisation of schools which nobody wants. Most of the schools which will be affected by its forced academisation programme are highly performing primary schools. There is no evidence that this agenda will raise standards. Indeed, many of the schools and areas which require focused improvement are already academies. The Government has no other agenda for school improvement.

‘She added, 'To to ask school leaders to take time away from educating our children to spend time and money, mainly on lawyers, to convert to an academy is irresponsible.  As with the costly and disrupting re-organisation of the NHS, the government will live to regret this approach, but unfortunately it will be our children who pay the price.’

This sets out how the schools white paper fits into the department’s wider agenda, which includes early years, children’s services, 16-19 education, and schools.

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