Academies and free schools or local government control?

With Labour choosing a new leader, the party’s policies and processes are being given a new look too. One of the striking differences of opinion between Labour and our Conservative government is in how our schools should be run.

Lucy Powell, appointed by Mr Corbyn as shadow education secretary, spelled out Labour’s plans to bring existing academies and free schools back in line with other state-maintained schools.

In a clear statement of intent, Labour will call for the schools to be returned to local control.

On labour’s education policy, Lucy Powell says, “Academies and free schools will remain. They will still exist as schools, but they will come under a different accountability system that will be local. In some places that will be the local authority; in other places that may be the combined authority; and in other places it might be an elected mayor.”

Current academies and free schools would not be closed but simply brought back under local authority control in a bid to bring them back in line with other comprehensive state schools.

Ms Powell added that the policies were still being developed and the feeling is that head teachers at academies and free schools may retain some freedoms such as operational and curriculum matters.

David Cameron has a different plan. Since the coalition government took power in 2010, the number of academies in England has boomed to nearly 5,000, with almost 60 per cent of all secondary schools now directly accountable to the Department for Education.

David Cameron has spoken about educating for the future saying, “We want everyone to have a chance to succeed and education is the best way of ensuring that. This means schools with strong standards and discipline, offering our children a firm foundation for future success. It also means giving great head teachers the freedom to run their own schools with the ability to set their own curriculum and pay their staff properly. Academy schools were created to do exactly that.

“I profoundly believe this is the right direction for our country because I want teachers not bureaucrats deciding how best to educate our children.”

He believes that these freedoms can help all schools and wants every school in the country to have the opportunity to become an academy and experience benefits through freedom.

His party’s views also extend to free schools, vowing to stick to its commitment to open 500 new free schools over the next 5 years. This will create 270,000 school places across the country providing parents more choice and encouraging existing schools to remain competitive.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan backed her leader saying, “The free schools programme has sent out the message loud and clear, that parents should never have to settle for anything less than the best for their child. Right across the country, these innovative, community led schools are helping to fulfil our ‘one nation’ commitment to educational excellence for every child.”

With strong opinions from both parties, the future of education will certainly be an interesting one.


Emma Williams