James Forsyth James Forsyth

How Brown’s backtracking on school reform 

Ever since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister and Ed Balls Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, there has been a steady attempt to undermine the academies programme. Brown and Balls have set about rolling back the freedoms that the academies had been given and quietly bringing them back under the dead hand of the local education authorities.

This letter (reprinted in full below) to Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, from the Independent Academies Association details just what the Brown government is trying to do and how pernicious it is. Regardless of whether Brown and Balls are doing this out of a wrong-headed ideological commitment or to appease interest groups in the Labour party, it is wrong and hurts the very children–generally the poorest—who the academies were set up to help.

Academies were one of the few areas where Blair managed to achieve meaningful, albeit diluted, public service reform. This legacy is now being destroyed by Brown and Balls. Indeed, one of the best things about the planned Gove reforms is that that they are so radical that they will not be vulnerable to this kind of salami-slicing tactics. If a returning Labour government wants to neuter these new schools they won’t be able to do it by stealth.

Dear Minister

It is with growing dismay that those of us within the Academies movement have witnessed government’s changing tack over the last eighteen months or so. It appears that with every consultation, each missive and even new legislation from the DCSF, there comes further erosion of the independent status of Academies. Academy Sponsors, Chairmen of Governors and Principals up and down the land are seriously questioning the long-term sustainability of the programme, when their efforts to positively impact on driving up educational standards and progress are being increasingly hampered by requirements to bow to the whims of quangos and to abide by additional regulations.

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