East Ham MP Stephen Timms is keeping an eye on the new academy proposals


- Credit: Archant

In February, I joined the Education Select Committee. It’s role is to monitor “the policy, administration and spending of the Department for Education, and its associated arms length bodies, including Ofsted”.

It meets every week while Parliament is sitting and has eleven members – six Conservative, four Labour and one SNP – and is chaired by Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud.

The committee has several inquiries under way. Since January, it has been inquiring into children’s social work. We are looking in to the recruitment and retention of teachers. Together with the Business Select Committee, we are looking at schools’ careers education, and at apprenticeships.

When the government announces its national school funding formula, we shall scrutinise it carefully. I’m worried it could be used to cut funding for London schools.

And we shall look very closely at the government’s latest policy, announced at the Budget, that all primary and secondary schools in England will be forced to convert to academies. This will mean that schools supported in the past by their local council will join a “Multi-Academy Trust” instead. Local councils’ role in education will be virtually ended.

Some Multi-Academy Trusts are doing a great job. But others aren’t. Many are under-performing, compared to local authorities. And one of the reasons some are struggling is that they have expanded too fast. Now they will be forced to expand further! The change will be especially dramatic for primary schools – only about 15 per cent are academies at the moment.

The policy has little support outside Whitehall, even among Conservatives. There is no evidence that simply converting a maintained school into an academy makes it a better school.

It is hard to see how the government can justify the costs the policy will impose. Our committee will scrutinise the proposals rigorously. More from Stephen

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