Readers may remember from my column of April 21st that I wrote about the changing of schools into Academies. As I said at the time, I was and remain supportive of Academy status for schools, but I stated my concern over the potential compulsory academisation of schools as I thought it seemed illogical to force schools that were good or excellent down a road that they may not wish or need to go.
Since April there has been much discussion in Westminster about this proposal. I and other colleagues have expressed our reservations, and at the time of my April column I had written to the Secretary of State outlining my concerns. Since then I have also met with her to reinforce these thoughts. Consequently last week Nicky Morgan announced that the Government were now no longer intending to force all schools to become Academies. I am pleased that the Government have listened to myself and other colleagues on this. I am still supportive of any school that wishes to become an Academy, but if a school is doing well then they no longer face this compulsion. If they take a decision themselves to become an Academy then that is fine, but the key is that now the decision is theirs and not one that could be foisted upon them.
In a similar way the Government also decided that it would not oppose a reworded amendment to the Immigration Bill regarding child refugees. The previous amendment, tabled by Lord Dubs in the Lords, called on the Government to take 3000 child refugees from within Europe. The reasons against accepting this - outlined in my column last week - were that the Government were focusing on child refugees still in the war zone camps who were in greater danger than those already within Europe. There was also a concern that to take children from within Europe could create a ‘pull factor’ giving people traffickers reason to encourage more children to make hazardous journeys.
Again, after much discussion in Westminster between colleagues and Ministers, the Government have indicated that they will accept a new ‘Dubs’ amendment that will bring a number of child refugees from within Europe. These will be children who are already within Europe and have been there prior to the agreement with Turkey over refugees. This allays the Government’s fears over the previous amendment potentially creating an incentive for people traffickers.
Some see the Government changing its mind on things as a weakness, but personally I disagree. When faced with concerns from backbenchers, who in turn are expressing concerns of constituents, I think it is the democratic process working as it should. With any issue there is never 100% on either side of the argument but I always listen to constituents of all views, try to take those views to Ministers and tell them what the strength of feeling is. When they change the Government position in response I think they should be commended for it.