Osborne and Morgan’s power grab is dangerous government by diktat. For a model supposed to free schools from bureaucratic burdens, mass imposition will merely create new ones. A one size fits all government is losing credibility on almost every front and seems determined to throw a generation of schoolchildren into a needless experiment.
The government has succeeded in alienating yet more Conservative councillors, even in Tory heartlands, with a policy that will result in the removal of local democratic accountability and disrupt education for a generation on an ideological whim. In the government’s White Paper, only lip service is paid to the vital contribution that parents make to schools, yet it legislates to remove the requirement for parent governors. Parents who dedicate their time and their expertise to improving schools in their area should be supported rather than see the government take their contribution for granted. In particular, the Education Secretary has shown nothing but contempt for the hard work and dedication of parent governors, and in questioning the political importance of education she has shown herself to be blind to an area that must be one of the priorities of government.
If there is one area that this government is truly outstanding in, it is alienating professions that serve the public. Teachers now join the junior doctors as targets of the government playing politics with public services. When the Education Secretary is met with such hostility by the NASUWT, it shows that she cannot command the confidence of the teaching profession.
Public patience has already worn thin with this government. They have been forced into abandoning policies because of public outcry. Labour will continue to be the voice of the compassionate society, those who want real devolution, not a Whitehall con trick. We’ll put pressure on the conscience of the government and continue to make a real difference in people’s lives, even in opposition. This academy bill is well and truly in our sights. There is a real chance to inflict another defeat on the government, as the chair of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, has written about his own misgivings with the proposal. He argues that the government is imposing the model rather than making a case for schools to choose academy status. Clearly, there is dissent on the government benches. Rebellions and public outcry give us a strong chance to defeat the bill, and to strike another blow against the credibility of this government.
Labour’s Parliamentary questions have revealed that this isn’t only a poorly thought out measure, but one that leaves a black hole of over £1bn in the budget. At a time when the government is failing to meet targets on teacher training and teaching unions warn of a crisis in the profession, Lucy Powell, the Shadow Education Secretary is right to ask if that money could not be better spent improving the quality of teaching in schools, driving up standards instead of throwing money at an ideologically motivated restructuring.
After Parliament returns, I look forward to joining my colleagues on the Labour benches in fighting to force the government to rethink this ill thought out attack on our schools, our education system and on local democracy.