I am the first to admit that I am not 100 percent informed about Academies.
But it must be wrong to rush the legislation through the way it has been.
Lib Dem MP John Pugh wanted to amend it so that, if the governing body of a school was split on whether to go for Academy status, there would be a ballot of parents. This seems eminently sensible. It wouldn't necessarily stop the process (although if there was a lot of opposition it could) but it would give those most associated with the school a chance to have a say and give the governing body a chance to take the temperature of parents.
His attempt to amend the Bill failed though.
I've pasted below an extract from Hansard (the official record of what is said in Parliament) which covers part of his speech.
Dr John Pugh (Southport) (LD): When were elected this May-God, it seems years ago-we all knew that there was some prospect that politics in this place might never be quite the same again. Many of us, frankly, welcomed that. The huge and welcome influx of new Members gave us all hope that things could possibly be different. That, along with the odd arithmetic of this place and the challenging nature of the country’s problems, seemed to dictate that the way ahead would be through rational consensus and for a while-all too short a while-it appeared that tribalism and command-and-control politics were dead; the Chamber and Committees would be important and the policy would have to be evidence-led, much to the disappointment of the media, whose preference is always for a good scrap.
What do we have with amendments to the Bill, however? We have the spectacle of Ministers who have already told us that they will accept no amendment, period, and the sight of Whips new and old cracking their knuckles off-stage and perfecting basilisk-like stares in the mirror, persuading people not to vote for amendments such as amendment 8 and others that, it could be argued, align with the spirit and improve the detail of the Bill. Paradoxically, they are doing that because they assume that is how coalition politics work. I say paradoxically, because the amendment-denying Ministers in front of us, whose agents the Whips are, seem to be the most mature, civilised and benign advocates of the new politics. I personally cannot associate myself with the recent comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron); (Tim Farron referred to Tories as "toxic) nor can I afford to drink in the Boot and Flogger (this is the pub in which David Davies the Conservative was overheard saying some uncomplimentary things about the Coalition) . I am simply moving an amendment with which the Committee should be comfortable and, frankly, which any Member of any party can and should be free to support.
In the event of a governing body being divided, amendment 8 obliges a school to hold a ballot if a governor or a minority of governors object to an application for academy status. It therefore provides a restraint on a motivated group of governors misrepresenting or riding roughshod over parents’ wishes.
Mr Evans, you might recall that under Mrs Thatcher, in the Education Reform Act 1988, a parental ballot was an essential precondition of the change to grant-maintained status in any school. There were votes across the country on those matters. Sadly, subsequent Governments seem to have lost interests in the views of parents and, in my view, have disempowered parents, with one exception. Tony Blair insisted that the change from grammar school status required a parental ballot and that condition survives and is effectively incorporated in this Bill.
Can anyone in this Chamber give me an argument for why grammar school parents should be balloted before the status of their school changes and parents of children at other schools should not? I am at a loss to find such an argument. Why should grammar school parents have a right that primary school parents, comprehensive school parents and special school parents do not have? Will anyone agree with the former and present me with a good argument for voting against the latter?