Labour ready to form an alliance with Tory rebels to defeat academisation plans

Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell (pictured) says the arguments she is making have been echoed by some Conservatives

Labour MPs are prepared to form an “alliance” with Conservative rebels to defeat the government’s academisation plans, shadow education secretary Lucy Powell has said.

The MP and mother-of-three told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ (ATL) conference in Liverpool that she expected the government to face “a really big hurdle” in getting the radical reforms through the Parliamentary process “and through their backbenches as well”.

She told journalists: “I think my approach to these issues in Parliament is going to be about making and winning the argument rather than a sort of ‘yah-boo’ traditional political discourse, because I don’t think that is going to enable us to develop that broader alliance.

“I have been trying to make very sensible, rational arguments about why I feel forced academisation is wrong and I think they are the same arguments I hear echoed by Conservatives in local government and in Parliament.

“You look to build an alliance on the points you’re trying to win on.”

The government’s White Paper, published last month, contained plans for a shake-up of the education system which would see the forced academisation of 17,000 schools in England, taking them out of the hands of local authority control.

‘Quality concerns’

But education experts, teaching staff, union members and parents have expressed concerns about the quality of education and accountability if all schools have to become academies.

Earlier, schools minister Nick Gibb spoke of a unified education service as a main benefit from forced academisation.

Ms Powell said of the White Paper: “It’s very early stages, we’ve not even had much of a Parliamentary opportunity to test out opinion on that yet.

“But it is becoming increasingly clear to me over the last two or three of weeks how few people there are out there supporting these proposals, and how many people there are saying the government needs to rethink, or who are outright opposed.

“That alliance is growing day by day and includes not just Conservative local government leaders but you can see some of that coming through from Conservative MPs, as well as others. In that context, [the government] are going to have to look again.”

She added: “I’m willing to work with anybody to make some of these arguments.”

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