Head teachers call for 'complex discussions' after academies U-turn


The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has said there needs to be "complex discussions" over the Government's U-turn on academies.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced on Friday that the Government was dropping plans to force all schools in England to become academies in the face of opposition from teaching unions, Tory MPs and councils.

The decision comes after a backlash to the proposal to take schools out of local authority control by 2022.

NAHT president Kim Johnson told the BBC: "We've been working very hard with the Government to try and get them to understand - with regard to assessment, with regard to funding and with regard to the academies programme - that actually there isn't a case of one size fits all.

"We're the intelligent practitioners and we want that opportunity, at the table with Government, to further those discussions."

Ministers still hope a large number of schools will choose to convert to academies, but the plan is now an "aspiration" rather than a compulsory policy, the Department for Education said.

The Government announced plans in its Budget to force around 17,000 mainstream schools in England to be taken out of the control of local education authorities.

Chancellor George Osborne said that all schools would have to convert by 2020 or be committed to doing so by 2022.

But the plans came under intense criticism, including from Tory council chiefs, and ministers faced a potential revolt from backbench MPs.

With the Government's slender majority in the Commons, there was a chance Mrs Morgan could have faced a humiliating defeat if she pushed ahead with the plans.

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

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.

Mrs Morgan said: "Making every school an academy is the best way to ensure every child, regardless of birth or background, has access to a world-class education.

"I am today reaffirming our determination to see all schools become academies. However, having listened to the feedback from parliamentary colleagues and the education sector we will now change the path to reaching that goal.

"By focusing our efforts on those schools most at risk of failing young people, and encouraging 'good' and 'outstanding' schools to seize the opportunities of conversion, we will ensure the continued growth of the academy programme, empowering frontline heads and school leads, and transforming even more children's education."