Academy plans in spotlight as Education Secretary meets school heads


Radical plans to strip schools from local authority control will come under further scrutiny today when the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan faces a teachers' union.

The Government's academisation programme, considered the greatest shake-up to the education system in generations, has been met with a frosty response from parents, staff and union members over concerns about cost and quality.

If given the go-ahead in Parliament, 17,000 state-run schools in England will be forced to become autonomous academies run by trusts by 2022 in a move designed to improve education for children. 

The announcement in a White Paper last month prompted a stream of protests across England, while two petitions against academisation have attracted around 300,000 signatures.

Ms Morgan is expected to be questioned over the plans when she gives a short speech and answers questions at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference in Birmingham this morning.

The Education Secretary was heckled when she appeared at the NASUWT conference in March, days after the plans were announced.

She can likely expect a less hostile reception from the more moderate NAHT, though objections to the plans show little sign of abating.

Appearing before the Commons education committee on Wednesday, Ms Morgan acknowledged the considerable weight of opposition to the education White Paper, but said she had received plenty of support in private.

She joked: "We haven't had the pitchforks yet, but perhaps I should look outside the committee room when I leave."

Asked if she was "fully committed" to the plan, a cornerstone of the Conservative education reforms, Ms Morgan replied: "Yes. That is the Government's position."

She denied academisation was being "inflicted" on schools, although the move will be compulsory if voted through Parliament.

Her appearance before the committee came amid further signs of a climbdown by David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions,  when he confirmed academies would still be able to "work with councils".