Nicky Morgan is reportedly planning to make a dramatic U-turn over the policy to force all schools to transform into academies, amid a looming Tory rebellion in the Commons.
In a significant concession to backbenchers the Education Secretary is considering allowing the best-performing councils to run their own academy chains.
The original plan – unveiled by the Chancellor George Osborne at his Budget speech last month – intends to turn 18,600 state schools into academies within six years. Those who have not been converted must have plans in place to do so by 2022.
But there is sign of that Ms Morgan faces opposition from within her own party, one Conservative MP described the flagship education policy as “f***ing poison” to The Times.
With a majority of just 17 in the Commons, and a rebel number of up to 40 MPs, the government will be forced to water down the policy if it is to pass through the House. It will be a considerable blow to Ms Morgan who has repeatedly insisted there will be no U-turn in the plans.
The Department for Education refused to be drawn on “private discussions” but a spokesman added: “Our education reforms are raising standards and 1.4million more children are now in good or outstanding schools.
“Our White Paper reforms are the next step in ensuring every child has access to an excellent education by putting control in the hands of the teachers and school leaders who know their pupils best. We want to work constructively with the sector to deliver this and ensure standards continue to rise.”
According to the Observer, Ms Morgan has been requested to appear before the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers before the Queen’s speech on 18 May. Graham Brady, chairman of the committee, told the newspaper that “good academies can bring enormous benefits and it is right that we should be helping those that want to covert to do so”.
“But I hope the white paper will be adapted to reflect the need to support and ease the process, rather than impose the change in areas where schools are already performing very well.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the policy last week at Prime Minister’s Questions, claiming the government was wasting £1.3 billion on a “top-down reorganisation that wasn’t in his manifesto.”
George Osborne 2016 budget at a glance
George Osborne 2016 budget at a glance
1/8 Debt forecasts up, growth forecasts down
The OBR’s new forecasts have downgraded growth in all of the next five years to 2020. The watchdog says the economy will only grow by 2 per cent in 2016, as opposed to the anticipated 2.4 per cent. Borrowing and productivity growth are also down – with forecast borrowing in 2018-198 £16 billion higher
2/8 New tax on sugary drinks
The Chancellor announced a new tax on sugary soft drinks, which is projected to raise £520 million. At least some of the money will be spent on doubling funding for school sport, the Chancellor says. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the levy
3/8 Tax cut for higher earners paying the 40p rate
The Chancellor has raised the threshold for paying the higher rate of income tax to £45,000. The higher rate is paid by roughly the richest 15 per cent, currently people earning over £42,386
4/8 Increase in tax-free income tax threshold
The tax-free allowance increase to £11,500 in April 2017 – up from £10,600 now. The Chancellor previously raised the allowance from £6,475 in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative manifesto pledges to put the allowance up to £12,500 by the end of the Parliament
5/8 New devolution for counties and powers for London and Manchester
The West of England, the East of England and Greater Lincolnshire will all get elected mayor-led combined authorities with new powers. The Chancellor says they are backed by £1 billion new funding. Greater Manchester will get new powers of criminal justice while London will keep its business rates – giving whoever is elected Mayor a lot more spending power
6/8 Fuel duty frozen for sixth year running
The Chancellor had planned to end the fuel duty freeze he had put in place for the whole previous parliament. In the event, he has announced a freeze for another year
7/8 All schools to become academies
As reported yesterday the Chancellor unveiled legislation to turn all schools into academies. He said all schools would either be academies or on their way to being academies by 2020, and that funding had been set aside to fund the change
8/8 Lifetime ISA
The Chancellor announced a new savings account to encourage under-40s to save for retirement – for every £4 saved, the Government will top this up by £1 up to the value of £4,000 a year. Tax-free ISAs will also be increased from £15,000 to £20,000
He added: "Teachers don't want it. Parents don't want it. Governors don't want it. Head teachers don't want it. Even his own MPs and councillors don't want it.”
Lucy Powell, shadow Education Secretary, said: “It’s increasingly clear that the government does not have support for proposals to force good and outstanding schools to become academies against their wishes.”
Last month figures obtained by Labour from a parliamentary question suggested each transformation from school to academy would cost £66,000 on average. It added that councils would have to cover a further £12,300 in costs, such as legal fees, per school.
In the same month leaders of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, at a local government level, demanded the Department for Education drops the controversial policy. The council leaders said, in a joint letter, that there is “no evidence” to suggest academies perform better than council-maintained schools.Reuse content