MP welcomes academies rethink

Local MP Steve Brine says it is 'excellent news' after a Government rethink was announced on forcing all schools to become academies.

 

It had been revealed, in the 2016 Budget and the current Education White Paper, that all schools must be in the process of conversion by the end of this Parliament and completed by 2022 at the latest.

The move however sparked great concern among top performing schools in high ranking local authorities, such as Hampshire.  In the county, 85% of schools are already rated 'good' or 'outstanding' while that figure rises to 94% in the Winchester District.

Steve Brine wrote to all headteachers in his Winchester & Chandler's Ford constituency immediately after the announcement was made and received a huge volume of feedback, mostly opposed to the move.  It was a case he took directly to the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on behalf of constituents.

Speaking in the House of Commons shortly afterwards he said: "If I were to sum up the concerns expressed to me by local teachers, it would be with the word 'confusion'. They are confused about why something that is so obviously not broken needs fixing... we must not allow the bad to become the enemy of the good."

Mr Brine set about working constructively with Ministers and key figures at Hampshire County Council, as well as in the Diocese of Winchester, to see if there was a compromise to be put to the Government. He adds; "The bottom line was a simple desire to protect what is good while allowing a policy that, quite properly and in line with our manifesto, tackles failing and coasting schools.

"All along I made the case that compulsion was not the right approach. If schools in Hampshire chose to convert that is a decision for them in consultation with local parents and I will support them 100%. I have no ideological issue with academies and think they have a place in a mixed school economy. However, forced academisation would put at risk the very tangible success we already see in local schools and many of us were uncomfortable with that."

On Friday 6th May, the Education Secretary announced a shift in policy that gives Government powers to convert schools that are failing in poorly performing local authorities while allowing high performing local authorities - such as Hampshire - to continue without interference.

Nicky Morgan also said there would be new measures brought forward to protect small rural schools, an issue raised with her by Mr Brine and a number of his colleagues.

Speaking to the BBC shortly after the announcement, Steve Brine said; "This is excellent news and a good example of Government listening and responding. The forced academisation idea was one put forward in a White Paper and I ensured it received feedback from this area which couldn't have been clearer.  Ministers are dead right to root out failing schools because every child deserves the kind of education on offer here in Winchester. I hope we have now found a way to do that which doesn't disrupt what is so obviously working here. Nicky Morgan deserves huge credit for listening and changing her plans."

He added; "I look forward to seeing what actual legislation the Government bring forward in the Queen's Speech and to scrutinising any Education Bills thereafter."

Pictured; Steve Brine prepares to speak to Sally Taylor at BBC South Today and (below) to the BBC News Channel in London live from Southampton on Friday 6th May 2016.

More information ...

Steve Brine raises local concerns over new academies push (13 April 2016)

Educational Excellence Everywhere - White Paper

Next Steps - Nicky Morgan statement 6th May 2016

Steve Brine on BBC News 24

Steve Brine on BBC South Today