On the 17th March, Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education (England), launched a new government White Paper for England: ‘Educational Excellence for Everyone’, building on announcements made in the Budget the day before.
The proposals would have: forced every school in England to become an academy by 2022 and take away many responsibilities for schools from local authorities; make sure most of new academies are part of Multi Academy Trusts; produce new accountability measure and league tables for Multi Academy Trusts; give additional powers on school improvement to regional schools commissioners; remove the requirement for parent governors; replace Qualified Teacher Status and review other aspects of teacher training and CPD; transform Ofsted inspection criteria; streamline admissions objectives; reform alternative provision; and publish a strategy for improved careers provision. The full white paper can be found at: White Paper
UNISON immediately condemned aspects of the white paper, in particular proposals to force all schools to become academies and the undermining of the role of parent governors. Joint union work also targeted the media: Other teacher and headteacher unions have also passed motions allowing for industrial action if necessary.
In the political world as well as the opposition parties the Conservative led Local Government Association and County Council Network also condemned the proposals, as did a significant number of Tory MPs.
Government step back
In response to this vigorous campaigning, the government backed down from proposals to legislate to force all schools to become academies by 2022. However it did announce proposals that would give it additional powers to force some more maintained schools to become academies.
These amended proposals, outlined in the Queen’s Speech on the 18th May will form part of a new bill called the Education for All Bill. This bill, if passed, would:
- enable the government to convert schools to academies in ‘under-performing and unviable local authorities’
- Make the process of becoming an academy ‘swifter and smoother’.
- Shift responsibility for school improvement from local authorities to schools
- Set out a new National Funding Formula
- Make schools responsible for finding the right provider for their excluded pupils, and accountable for their education.
Clearly the government has suffered a setback, however it still wants all schools to become academies and the new proposed legislation would allow them to force more schools in that direction.
UNISON will continue to work closely with sister unions and other interested parties to oppose the government’s new proposals. The unions in the coalition issued a joint statement just before the Queen’s speech condemning the government’s increased obsession with school structures, when there were far more pressing issues to deal with: Link
UNISON’s Local Government Conference in June will also see a debate on the government’s plans and the next steps.
National funding formula
The Department for Education published an initial consultation on the principles of a proposed new national funding formula (NFF) in April. They are yet to publish their response to the consultation. It is likely that there will be a further consultation with greater details of the impact and likely changes. However, it seems unlikely that this will be published ahead of the EU referendum. UNISON remains concerned about the potential impact of the new NFF. It is expected that rather than increasing funding to bring all schools up to the levels of the best funded, the government will re-distribute funds, ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, which would have a severe detrimental impact on many schools. Further advice and guidance will be issued when more information is available.
Jon Richards – National Secretary -Education and Children’s Services