County councillors voted to support the Government climbdown on a blanket conversion of all schools to academies.
Liberal Democrats put forward a motion asking East Sussex County Council to oppose enforced academisation and to ‘take all available steps to discourage Government from this course of action’.
An amended motion by the lead member responsible for education asking the authority to support the Government’s announcement that it will not continue with plans for the blanket conversion of all schools to academy status was approved by county councillors last Tuesday (July 12).
Deputy leader of the Lib Dem group Kathryn Field (LDem, Battle and Crowhurst), who put forward the original motion with Alan Shuttleworth (LDem, Eastbourne - Langney), said the proposals announced in the Budget had ‘made her blood run cold’, but since then the landscape had ‘changed slightly’.
Nick Bennett (Con, Alfriston, East Hoathly and Hellingly), lead member for education and inclusion, special educational needs and disability, explained that the Lib Dems’ original motion had been ‘superseded’, but they were all ‘now very much in agreement’.
But Cllr Shuttleworth said he did not share the optimism that the issue had gone away and felt there was ‘enormous turmoil’ in schools, as they aimed to improve standards while struggling to recruit and retain staff.
He added: “What schools want to hear is this academisation drive that seems to be hanging over them is removed altogether.”
He continued: “The bigger picture is there is a real threat to the ability of the local authority to actually carry out its duty to improve standards across the piste.”
But Roy Galley (Con, Buxted and Maresfield) said it was ‘wrong’ to say forced academisation was ‘still in the background’.
He added: “Councillor Shuttleworth does not seem to have taken that point on board.”
Godfrey Daniel (Lab, Hastings - Braybrooke and Castle) said there was ‘no such thing as choice’. He said: “Do you want tea or coffee? Well it’s up to me what I give you.
“You might prefer tea, I only have coffee.
“It’s quite important to realise that parents don’t have a choice, they can state a preference.”
He said that if you had a secondary school age child in Hastings you had no choice as they were all academies, which had led to ‘major problems’ around admissions.
Cllr Daniel described the ‘complete nightmare’ suffered by families who relocated to the area and tried to get their children into academies where they control their own admissions.
The amended motion also stated that the council believed there was no requirement for good or outstanding schools to convert to academy status, and would like clarification about the Government’s proposals to bring forward any future legislation on academies.
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