The growing opposition to ‘Thicky’ Nicky Morgan’s academisation plans has now grown into several distinct arguments.
There’s the issue of schools being run by “distant bureaucracies”, as described by Mr Brady. Obviously this implies a restriction of choice, which contradicts the Conservative Party’s claim to be the party of choice.
There’s the matter of cost – more than £1 billion more than was set aside for the project? Thicky Nicky needs to go back to her maths class, it seems! Perhaps she thinks it’s a price worth paying to put more than £60 billion of publicly-owned assets in the hands of private companies, who will pay nothing for them.
There’s the issue of reduced accountability, with parents being forcibly removed from school governing bodies.
But more pressing than all of these, for Conservative councillors who have banded together with rivals from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, is the concern that this policy will spell electoral disaster for them in May.
English voters go to the polls in May for council elections, and This Writer reckons Conservative members of local authorities can see the writing on the wall for them. It spells “Tories out!” if this policy goes ahead.
Ah, but Thicky Nicky has already announced that there can be no rethink, and all publicly-funded English schools will become privatised academies by 2022.
She’s between a rock and a hard place now. Can we hope for another cabinet departure in the next few days?
The leader of the backbench Conservatives at Westminster has raised serious concerns about plans to force all state schools to become academies by 2022, in a blow to government hopes of forcing them on to the statute book.
In a sign of the depth of Tory unrest, Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee, said the plans announced by George Osborne could lead to the creation of “new and distant bureaucracies” rather than delivering greater freedom and autonomy for schools. He also said they could have the unwelcome effect of removing parents from governing bodies and reducing accountability.
Brady, who spoke out as new data suggested the reorganisation could cost more than £1.3bn, is writing to education secretary Nicky Morgan in the hope that the proposals spelled out in the recent education white paper can be changed. He also wants reassurances from Morgan that the plans will not be rushed through parliament – suggesting that without a rethink they could trigger a backbench Tory rebellion.
On Friday night the row escalated as new parliamentary answers provided by the minister for children and families, Edward Timpson, suggested ministers face a £1bn-plus funding “black hole” to pay for the plans. In answer to a question by Labour MP Jess Phillips about how much the Department for Education had already spent on converting schools to academies, Timpson revealed that the total bill for converting 4,897 schools has been £323m since 2010.
This works out at an average cost per school of just under £66,000. Were the average cost to remain the same, the bill for converting the remaining 16,800 schools would be more than £1.1bn. Only £140m was announced to fund the plans in Osborne’s March budget.
A Department for Education spokesperson hit back at claims that the plans were underfunded, saying: “It is untrue to suggest there will be a shortfall of funding for our academisation plans. As set out in the spending review, and in last month’s budget, we have enough funding to support a high-quality, fully academised school system. We have over £500m available in this parliament to build capacity in the system – including recruiting excellent sponsors and encouraging the development of strong multi-academy trusts.”
But Labour insisted that, of the £640m in the budget red book, £500m had been set aside for the separate transition to a fairer funding formula for schools, leaving ministers with a funding “black hole” of more than £1bn over the next six years.
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