Gove shrugs off academy outrage

By staff

Michael Gove has been forced to defend rushing legislation revolutionising the schools system through parliament after the government admitted only 153 schools had applied to become academies.

The education secretary had told MPs over 1,100 schools had “applied” to be considered for academy status.

But the publication by the Department for Education of the list of 153 schools which were actually seeking academy status this September raised questions about the necessity of rushing the academies bill through parliament.

The legislation was only examined by the Commons for eight sitting days, a fraction of the scrutiny usually allocated to a flagship bill. It was not preceded by either a green paper or a white paper.

“Some people have accused us of a precipitous rush, others say it’s a damp squib. But we have always said this is permissive legislation,” Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One programme.

“The reason we pressed ahead was that I believe it’s important that we give schools freedoms. But we are not giving a time table.”

Shadow education secretary Ed Balls called Mr Gove’s statement to the Commons ‘misleading’.

And the National Union of Teachers’ general secretary Christine Blower said: “One has to question why the secretary of state felt the need to exaggerate and mislead the public in this way.”

The government said the 1,100 figure referred only to schools who had initially expressed interest in becoming academies.