Nicky Morgan firmly in listening mode over academies

Nicky Morgan Image copyright Getty Images

Sometimes it's not what is said, but how it's said that matters.

In her interview earlier with the BBC, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan could not have signalled more strongly that she is firmly in listening mode.

The plans to compel all state schools in England to become academies has provoked more opposition than expected.

Does she mind that MPs from her own party are bluntly questioning this policy and asking why it was not in the manifesto?

Not a bit of it, she insisted, it's perfectly legitimate for them to ask questions so she can "clarify" how it's going to work in their area.

It's not just the backbenchers who stood up one after another during a Commons debate last week.

Just a couple of days ago, the Conservative MP for Peterborough, Stewart Jackson, said the policy was "slightly barmy" and described academy trusts as remote and unaccountable.

Nicky Morgan knows she will have to give ground somewhere and now, without making any actual concessions, she has prepared that ground.

This is a White Paper she said, draft plans, and not every element is yet set in stone.

So discussions will continue as she and her ministerial team try to convince some on their own side that concerns can be mitigated.

Where she is on far trickier ground is when putting forward evidence to make her case for the wholesale shift to academies.

Nicky Morgan said again that more children are in good schools as a result of the academy policy.

She didn't mention that only outstanding schools were encouraged to volunteer during the last parliament.

Many did in return for getting their hands on some of the cash that would normally go to councils for support services.

Others, like Newcroft Primary in her Loughborough constituency, have seen the way the wind blows and would rather choose themselves which schools to collaborate with in a group.

This is a pragmatic decision by head teachers and governing bodies, not gung ho enthusiasm for the idea per se.

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