POLITICS

PMQs: Jeremy Corbyn Attacks David Cameron Over Forcing Schools To Become Academies

Labour leader condemns "fantasy" as PM's spokesman says there's six years "to discuss these issues"

20/04/2016 14:12 | Updated 20 April 2016

The Government has offered the first sign of movement over forcing schools to become academies as Jeremy Corbyn launched a fierce attack on David Cameron over the controversial reform.

During Prime Minister's Questions, the Labour leader looked to exploit growing unease with the flagship education change after Conservative MPs and even ex-Tory Education Secretary Kenneth Baker criticised "academisation".

In an attack likely to be clipped on the evening news, Corbyn said the Prime Minister was living in "fantasy land" over his £1.3 billion "top-down re-organisation".

He said: “Teachers don’t want it. Parents don’t want it. Governments don’t want it. Headteachers don’t want it. Even his own MPs and councillors don’t want it.

"Can’t he just think again and support schools and education, and not force this on them?”

Parliament TV
Jeremy Corbyn: "Teachers don’t want it. Parents don’t want it. Headteachers don’t want it."

Speculation was mounting last week that the Government may be preparing to row back from the overhaul announced by George Osborne in the Budget.

Though Cameron's defence of the policy in the Commons was robust, making clear he wanted to "complete the work" started by Labour under Tony Blair, his official spokesman suggested there was room for manoeuvre.

The spokesman said: “I think the thing to make clear is that with the timetable we are talking about a six year period. It’s a long period of time. Clearly there’s time to discuss these issues and look at these issues.

“(Education Secretary) Nicky Morgan has already been having discussions with colleagues, with teachers, with local authorities. The goal is very clear but people are giving the impression that this is happening overnight.  We are talking 2022.”

The BBC's Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, reported sources were suggesting concessions on some areas concerning Tory MPs. 

The Conservatives want all state schools to become academies by 2020 - or have plans to do so by 2022 - but Tory MPs are unhappy with the “compulsory" nature of the plans and Whitehall control.

Academies are free of local authority control, get funding from central Government and tend to be "sponsored".

Corbyn cited disquiet expressed by former education select committee chair Graham Stuart and the Tory council education chief in his Oxfordshire constituency, Melinda Tilley, who said she was "fed up with diktats from above".

Parliament TV

In response, Cameron justified the reform because he wanted schools to be "run by headteachers and teachers and not by bureaucrats", and argued there is "clear evidence" the plan will work - claiming 88% of 'converter academies' are good or outstanding.

"The results are better, education's improving, I say let's complete the work,” the Prime Minister said, adding outstanding or good schools "have nothing to fear from becoming academies, but a huge amount to gain".

He added: "This is something started by the Labour Government and given rocket boosters by this Government. We've seen massive improvement because of academies and we say 'get on with it, finish the job'."

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