Chorus of dissent sparks academy climbdown

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan Image copyright PA
Image caption The education secretary heeded a growing chorus of dissent

The chorus of opposition was getting louder, the climbdown, when it came, was massive but inevitable.

Already the chairman of the influential 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, Graham Brady, had warned ministers it would not get through parliament.

There was a danger of the political damage escalating.

George Osborne put these plans at the centre of his Budget in March.

Just last week they were defended by David Cameron in Parliament.

Today, when election results around the UK were dominating the news, Nicky Morgan had to front up the U-turn.

At her constituency office, on the aptly named School Street, she told me that, on reflection, it was right that schools should have the choice to become academies.

Persuaded not pushed

The 2022 deadline still stands she insisted, but schools will be persuaded, not pushed, to convert.

The end result will still be many more academies by 2020 when the next general election is due.

The government will press on with using its recent acquired powers to make schools classed as "coasting" into academies.

They will also consult on new powers to be brought forward in draft legislation in the autumn.

Any local authority area where just a handful of schools are still not academies will be given no option but to convert.

Councils which are deemed to be chronically underperforming will also have their schools pushed over the line by the Regional Schools Commissioners who oversee the process.

So the arguments aren't over, but the government has turned the heat down from a rolling boil, to a simmer.

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