MP hits out at Education Bill’s academy moves as ‘undemocratic’

Protest march through Norwich against Hewett School becoming an academy.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Protest march through Norwich against Hewett School becoming an academy.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The government is to stop communities having their say when schools are forced to become academies.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Under the Education Bill, all schools rated inadequate by Ofsted will be turned into an academy and sponsors will not have to consult local people on the change.

The plans have been branded 'undemocratic' and 'a declaration of war on people with different views'.

But the government says campaigners have too often been able to delay or overrule the process where schools deemed failing by Ofsted become academies.

The former Cavell Primary and Nursery School – now an academy – and the Hewett School – in consultation to become an academy – have both been high profile cases which have seen vocal campaigns taking on the government over proposed conversions.

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Academies are state-funded schools that are independently run by academy trusts or chains – charities that run a string of state schools.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan believes schools would be improved faster by academy sponsorship under the plans and bureaucratic and legal loopholes would be removed.

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But Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, described the bill as 'disgusting and undemocratic'.

He said: 'This is a smash and grab route by a government that's made it quite clear it wants to undermine basic human rights. It doesn't surprise me that they want to tell parents they will have no say in their children's education.

'It makes me furious, not just as a politician but as a member of a community in Norwich. It misses the point completely, and there's no evidence [academies work]. It's privatisation through the back door.'

The bill sets out measures to turn all schools deemed to be failing into academies, doubling the current rate.

Currently, schools are said to be failing if rated inadequate by Ofsted and missing government benchmarks on results and pupil progress, but the bill is expected to set out new yardsticks.

Academy chains have welcomed the proposal. Ian Burchett, the executive principle at the Great Yarmouth Federation, which is run by the Inspiration Trust, said: 'This is a decision that is being taken because schools are failing our communities and students, and that is unacceptable.

'The authorities are taking very firm and effective action against that.'

Former junior education minister and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss backed his view: 'If a school is failing, then teachers, the governing body, parents and pupils need the support and reassurance a leading academy sponsor can offer and I fully support this measure.'

What do you think about the plan? Write to EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE, giving your full name, address and contact details.

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