Most policy announcements never turn out entirely as expected but here are five initial judgements about Nicky Morgan’s academy U-turn.
- It will lead to more a more sensible growth in the academy and MAT landscape – headteachers and governors are now more likely to make sensible decisions about whether and how to convert to academy status and whether to join or form their own MAT. And, hopefully, we are more likely to avoid the over-rapid expansion of some MATs – a real risk still in my view.
- The condition that forced academisation could still be on the cards for schools in those areas where too few remain with a local authority to make their schools improvement function viable,may perversely put peer pressure on schools to eschew academisation because it undermines the viability of their authority.
- The announcement has repercussions for other bits of the Education White Paper. For example, is it feasible, to now withdraw all school improvement funding from local authorities? If heads and schools are to be given a window of grace to turn round weak or failing schools before Ofsted comes calling, how will this interact with and impact on the definition of failing local authorities?
- We need to see the small print of the government’s new legislation – particularly its definition of what constitutes a poorly performing local authority – which will remain as a trigger for compulsory academisation. The tougher the rules the government proposes the more it will come under pressure to also apply them to diocesan schools and poorly performing MATs.
- The government in general and Nicky Morgan in particular are damaged politically (particularly as this is just the latest in a longish line of government policy U-turns) . The U-turn may well encourage resistance to other aspects of the government’s reform programme – such as the testing and assessment regime. The odds on a new Secretary of State for Education in a post-Referendum reshuffle have also shortened.