Education & Family

Morgan offers no academy concessions

Nicky Morgan
Image caption Nicky Morgan faced MPs' questions over her academy plans

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan offered no concessions over controversial plans to force all of England's schools to become academies.

Mrs Morgan was pressed by MPs on whether she was committed to pushing the plan forward as legislation.

"That is the government's position," she told the education select committee.

Mrs Morgan told MPs that the changes to schools would create a "strong, consistent system".

But Labour's Ian Mearns questioned how she could run a school system which could have 10,000 separate academy trusts.

The education secretary was questioned on her academy plans by the cross-party committee of MPs.

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Cameron told MPs that "academies for all is a good policy"

Earlier at Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron said he was committed to pushing ahead with the school plans in the Queen's Speech.

"I'm very clear - academies are great, academies for all is a good policy," he said.

There has been criticism from Conservative backbenchers who have doubted whether outstanding schools should be forced to convert to academy status.

But the education secretary argued that a "dual system", with academy and local authority schools, would be less efficient than a single, compulsory model for running the country's schools.

Mrs Morgan said schools wanted certainty about their future - and that so far a "fear of the unknown" had discouraged primary schools from choosing to become academies.

And she rejected the idea that schools should feel that academy status was something to be "inflicted".

"I don't think it's a question of inflicting anything on anybody.

"I think it is a question of offering people the opportunity to be autonomous and run themselves."

But she was pressed by MPs on why school autonomy should not extend to allowing schools to decide whether to be academies.

And she was challenged by Labour's Ian Austin for any evidence to show that academy status was linked to school improvement.

There were also concerns raised about plans which would allow academy trusts to operate without any parent governors.

There has been strong opposition to the all-academy plan from local government - and this has prompted claims that the government might compromise by allowing local authorities to create their own academy trusts.

But Mrs Morgan gave no support to the idea, saying that individuals from councils could set up trusts, but not councils as organisations.

The education secretary was asked by Conservative Michelle Donelan whether the plans needed more time.

Mrs Morgan said that many of the proposals could be delivered without changes to the law - and that at present she could not say "what's in the detail of the legislation".

Labour's shadow education secretary, Lucy Powell, said it was still unclear whether the government intended to seek new powers.

"Unless there is explicit legislation in the Queen's Speech to force good and outstanding schools to become academies, schools should take the message loud and clear that the government is back-pedalling."

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