Yorkshire union official vows to fight academies plan “until we win”

Ross Parry/Tom Maddick.

Ross Parry/Tom Maddick.

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A LEADING union official from Yorkshire has said that it will fight the Government’s plan to turn all state schools into academies “until we win”.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) will ballot for strike action after outright rejecting the academisation plan at their conference.

Academies are state funded schools which are run outside of local council influence with greater freedom over pay, conditions and what they teach.

They can be run as stand alone academies or as part of academy chains. NUT executive member Ian Murch, from Halifax, told the union’s annual conference in Brighton this weekend, that the measures would see “schools stolen from their local communities”.

However the Department for Education accused the NUT of playing politics with children’s futures.

Mr Murch, a former NUT Bradford branch secretary said: “We will stand up for pupils, for patients and for teachers, and we will lead the campaign for sanity. We will fight the forced academisation of our schools. We will fight for what is right and we will fight until we win.”

Members voted against the Government’s education new White Paper, and also agreed an amendment to ballot for strike action. This is likely to include proposals for a one-day strike in the summer, as well as potential for further strikes, should members agree. Fellow executive member from West Yorkshire Hazel Danson described the plans as “a wilful act of recklessness”.

The NUT’s collective defiance looks unlikely to result in a change in policy in Whitehall, after Education Secretary Nicky Morgan ruled out the prospect of a Government U-turn over academisation. She told the NASUWT conference, which was also taking place this weekend that there would be “no pulling back” and “no reverse gear” on the Government’s education reforms, including the controversial roll-out of academy schools in England.

A Department for Education spokesman said the NUT would rather “play politics with our children’s future than work constructively with us to deliver our vision for educational excellence everywhere”. He added: “We make no apology for our reforms, which have resulted in a record number of children now being taught in good or outstanding schools - 1.4 million more than in 2010.

“And as set out in our White Paper, we are determined to continue with our vision to ensure every single child has the best possible education, as well as raising the status of the profession. It would be refreshing to see the NUT doing likewise.”

At the NASUWT conference, the union’s general secretary Chris Keates urged Mrs Morgan to rethink the academies plan.

Ms Keates said: “If you want educational excellence everywhere as your White Paper is entitled, then recognise that there are outstanding academies, outstanding community schools, outstanding foundation schools, outstanding voluntary-aided schools which proves academies don’t have the monopoly on excellence and that structural change, by itself, doesn’t raise standards.

“I heard what you said about not turning back, but I ask you to think again and ditch that proposal to force every school to become an academy.”

The Government announced its plan to turn all state schools into academies by 2022 in the recent budget.

It caused controversy as it followed warnings to Mrs Morgan from Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw about the watchdog’s critical findings from focused inspections of schools inside seven of the country’s major academy chains.

This included Yorkshire-based School Partnership Trust Academies which Ofsted said was not doing enough to secure improvements at some of its secondary schools.

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