Ministers still hope a large number of schools will choose to become academies, but the plan is now an “aspiration” rather than a compulsory policy, the Department for Education said.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan revealed the policy change today. Critics have welcomed the decision but attacked the Government over the disruption the plan had caused. It had attracted widespread opposition from councils, some Conservative MPs and teaching unions.
The National Association of Head Teachers had voted to consider industrial action in opposition to the academies plan at their annual conference.
Coun Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for schools said: “It has been difficult for people to understand the rationale behind it as it was so at odds with the Government devolution agenda. Leeds has 91.7 per cent of our primary schools rated as good or outstanding and I know that this news will be a huge relief to them all. This is a decision that is long overdue and I think Nicky Morgan should apologise to teachers and parents for putting them through these unnecessary months of worry.”
Leeds City Council’s Labour leader Coun Judith Blake added: “Schools cannot be treated with a one size fits all approach and I am absolutely delighted that people power has led to what is a humiliating climb down by Nicky Morgan.”
Mrs Morgan announced the policy change in an interview with the BBC. It reported her saying: “This is about being a listening government and I would consider myself to be a listening Secretary of State.
“Better to have reforms than have none at all.”
Academies are state-funded schools which are run outside of the local education authority control with greater freedoms over their curriculum and spending.
They were originally introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour government as city academies which would replace struggling inner city secondary schools.
The last government massively expanded the programme allowing good and outstanding schools to convert academy status and intervening to turn failing schools into academies.
In the Budget in March George Osborne revealed the plan for all state schools to become academies.