The Government's Education Policy in Tatters - Time to End This Ideological Nonsense

06/05/2016 16:56 | Updated 06 May 2016

This is a huge Government climb-down. The humiliating volte-face by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is a result of the magnificent show of defiance by teachers, heads, governors, parents and politicians of all parties - including Conservatives - who made clear that the enforced privatisation of England's state schools would not be countenanced.

NUT members have been at the forefront of protests against the measure, contained in the White Paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere. Significantly, the proposal was announced the day before the White Paper's publication by the Chancellor in his budget, confirming that it stood as a flagship policy of the Conservatives' second term.

This is the third major education U-turn by Government. In a month we have seen baseline scrapped, SPAG Key Stage 1 tests scrapped and now the central plank of the White Paper, forced academies. This is a clear indication that Government policy is in tatters.

Within a week of the White Paper being published, demonstrations occurred across the country organised by NUT members. Two petitions calling for a halt to the proposal to force all schools to become academies reached 150,000 signatures each, and 200 parents met at the NUT headquarters. This was an unprecedented outcry.

All of these events, along with opposition from other education unions, governors, parents and politicians with whom the NUT has worked closely in recent weeks have contributed to this humiliating climb-down over a flagship policy.

However, the threat to state education in England has not gone away. The spectre of forced acadamisation still looms over many schools along with the threat to remove the requirement for elected parent places on the governing boards of academy trusts. Nicky Morgan's statement made clear that while 'top' schools will no longer be forced into multi academy trusts (MATs), those the Government declares to be 'underperforming' still risk enforced academisation. Furthermore, local authorities could see local schools forced into MATs where the Government deems them to be 'no longer viable' or to be 'underperforming'.

In addition, schools remain blighted by the pernicious legislation that took effect last month in the form of the Education and Adoption Act which has increased the powers of unelected and unaccountable Regional Schools Commissioners to intervene against schools deemed to be 'failing', 'coasting' or 'underperforming'. These schools remain at threat of forced academisation. The NUT's job will not be complete until we have finally lifted the threat to teachers' jobs, pay and conditions.

The NUT is proud of the leading contribution it has made to defeating the White Paper's central proposal. But we will continue to fight measures that threaten to undermine children's education and teachers' working conditions. Nicky Morgan needs to stop and talk to the profession to work out a clear way forward. It is time to end this ideological nonsense from this discredited Government. They need to start adopting the right priorities for education by talking to the profession. They should not take extra powers to force all schools in specified local authorities to become academies. The 8% cuts to budgets that schools are facing need to be reversed. This is a huge concern as it will impact on every school and every child.

Christine Blower is the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers