Corbyn: Tories “asset-stripping” education system

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn today accuses the Tories of taking an “ideological” approach to schools and presiding over an “asset-striping” agenda with their plan for the roll-out of academies.

The Labour leader is expected to criticise the Government for failing to to tackle a shortage of both teachers and school places when he appears at the National Union of Teachers conference. His speech marks a return to the NUT for Labour after years of wariness among the party following the booing and heckling of Estelle Morris, then the Education Secretary, in 2002.

Today Corbyn renews his attack on George Osborne’s plan convert all state schools into academies, saying “This is an ideological attack on teachers and on local and parental accountability – an attack which was nowhere in their manifesto at the last general election.

“The Tories want to shut parents out of a say in how their children’s schools are run. I want schools accountable to their parents and their communities – not to those pushing to be first in line for the asset-stripping of our education system.

“There is a crisis in our schools now. Children are facing rising class sizes; there is a shortage of teachers, and parents already face a crisis in school places.

“The forced academisation will do nothing to address any of those problems. At the same time school budgets are being cut in real terms – for the first time since the mid-1990s. They have the wrong values and the wrong priorities.”

Academy schools are independent of local authority oversight. Instead, the academy’s sponsor is in charge of improving standards. Sponsors can be businesses, universities, other schools, faith groups or voluntary groups. Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis introduced academy schools in 2002 as a method of quickly tackling failing schools, but did not intend them to become the dominant model of education.

Corbyn pledged that Labour would “work with” teachers to address problems in education. Statistics released earlier this month show that one in six schools is over capacity, with many schools facing a crisis in teacher recruitment and school places available.

“Labour will work with you, with parents and pupils, with local authorities and with our communities to defend education and stop these plans for forced academisation.”

This follows Conservative councillors condemning the plan for more academies, saying the “diktats from above” would not help schools.

Lucy Powell, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said the growing opposition to the plans showed the “unnecessary and unfounded” nature of the proposals.

“The alliance against the plans to force all  primary and secondary schools in England to become academies is growing as grassroots Conservatives raise important concerns about this this top-down, costly reorganisation of our schools.

“Ministers have failed to make any compelling argument for why these plan, which nobody wants and schools don’t need, is necessary.”

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