Up to 1,000 “failing” schools will be turned into academies under controversial new legislation to be tabled today by the government.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan will introduce “tough new measures” contained within the new Education and Adoption Bill that will “sweep away bureaucratic and legal loopholes” and force councils and governing bodies to convert struggling schools into academies.
The new rules will mean every school rated “inadequate” by Ofsted in the future will be turned into an academy.
According to the Department for Education, since 2010 the government has already intervened in half of all schools placed in special measures. The new legislation will give officials the power to go into every school rated “inadequate”, which it expects to number as many as 1,000.
The new bill will also put in place plans to tackle so-called “coasting” schools, putting them on a notice to improve. These schools will be given additional support from a team of “expert headteachers”, while those that do not show any improvement will be given new leadership.
Ahead of the bill being laid before Parliament, Ms Morgan said the piece of legislation would allow the “best education experts” to intervene in schools from the “first day we spot failure”.
“It will sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children,” she said.
“Hundreds of schools, often in disadvantaged areas, are already being turned around thanks to the help of strong academy sponsors – education experts who know exactly what they have to do to make a failing school outstanding. This bill will allow them to do their job faster and more effectively, ensuring that thousands more pupils, from across the country, get the world class education they deserve.”
The plans have faced stiff opposition from both heads’ and teachers’ leaders alike, who described the proposals when were they first put forward back in February as a “war on schools”.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said the government had resorted to “sanctions and threats when our education system needs investment and support”.
“Parents who have campaigned against the opaque and centralised process of academisation will be dismayed to see themselves dismissed as obstacles to be eliminated,” Mr Hobby said.
And he added: “Above all, though, this approach to school improvement looks increasingly threadbare. It not only fails to recognise the central concerns of 2015 – on school places, funding and recruitment – it actually exacerbates them by damaging the morale of teachers and the recruitment of leaders to challenging schools.”
Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said the jury was still out on the power of academisation. “As the Education Select Committee has said, it’s too early to say whether academies are a positive force for change, and we know from the Public Accounts Committee that 18 academy chains were prevented from expanding further because of concerns about standards in their schools,” Dr Bousted said. “Academy sponsors are not the sole source of education expertise that the government would want us all to believe.”