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Why I will oppose the Government’s plan to force all schools to become academies

Thanks to all of you who have contacted me expressing concern about the Government's intention to force all local authority maintained schools to convert to academies.

I will oppose the Government's plan, as will all Labour MPs. It is badly thought out, unnecessary and a distraction from the real challenges facing our schools

Lots of other people are concerned about what’s being proposed, including parents and teachers, and two petitions opposing the Government's proposals have already each received over 140,000 signatures. The Local Government Association and councillors across the political spectrum have voiced their worries about meeting local need and accountability, while the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Association of Head Teachers have argued that this will distract schools from their main job of teaching and learning. And I find it astonishing that ministers are proposing to remove parents from school governing bodies.

While there are some great academies, there are also excellent community schools. Indeed, the vast majority of non-academy schools affected by these plans will be primary schools, over 80 per cent of which are already rated as good or outstanding. Of course, there are also examples of both poor academy schools and local authority maintained schools, but the evidence on whether academy status leads to improved standards is mixed. A report by the House of Commons' Education Select Committee during the last Parliament (in January 2015), for example, found that current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall, or for disadvantaged children. Ofsted have also reported recently that the academies programme is not bringing about rapid improvement and, in some cases, has led to decline.

I believe that we should be concentrating on improving standards across all types of schools and I am very concerned that the Government's ideological plan will divert resources, time and effort away from dealing with the immediate challenges, including reduced budgets, a shortage of teachers and not enough good school places. These will not be helped by a costly and unnecessary reorganisation of the school system.

Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

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