Labour will scrap the free schools programme and end academisation, the shadow education secretary has announced.
Angela Rayner described the academy system as “not fit for purpose” as she pledged to end the “forced conversion” of schools, saying she would instead focus on delivering “what works” to get the best results for pupils.
She criticised the “fat cat” salaries of some executives at large academy chains, and said local communities have been shut out of decisions affecting schools in their area.
Academies, which receive their funding directly from central government, rather than through a local authority, and have more freedom than other schools, were started under Labour with the aim of helping schools in difficulty.
Now all schools are able to convert.
Rayner, who will set out further details in a speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Monday, is expected to point to a lack of evidence that academy conversions under the Tories have improved results.
And she will outline plans to create a regulatory framework for schools, so parents and local communities are guaranteed a meaningful and active role in decision-making.
Existing academies will be brought back into an integrated National Education Service under the proposals, and the free school programme – designed to promote a form of academy – will be scrapped.
National pay rules will also be enforced to prevent executives from paying themselves “fat cat” salaries.
The Labour frontbencher said: “The Tories’ academy system is simply not fit for purpose. Labour will end the forced conversion of local schools to academies, scrap the inefficient free school programme and instead focus on delivering what works to get the best results for pupils.
“The Tories have thrown money at an academy and free school programme that is not improving outcomes for pupils, even while individual schools have their budgets cut year after year. We now routinely see the shocking sight of schools begging parents for financial support just to carry out day-to-day functions.
“Meanwhile, some executives at large academy chains are earning fat cat salaries from taxpayers’ money, and there are mounting scandals and evidence of financial mismanagement.
“For too long, parents and local communities have been shut out of decisions affecting schools in their area. The next Labour government will give power back to communities so that our schools are run by the people who know them best – parents, teachers and local communities.”
Labour will also allow local authorities to step in where academy chains fail to put a stop to so-called “zombie” schools – academies waiting to be transferred to another chain or sponsor after the trust originally managing them has stopped.
Figures released to Rayner by education minister Nadhim Zahawi showed there were 124 “zombie” academies in July – up from 64 in December.
Rayner said: “The Tories’ fragmentation and school system has created zombie schools – caught between academy chains who are under no obligation to take them on and a Government that simply washes its hands of the problem, refusing to step in and take responsibility.
“Tens of thousands of children are educated in these schools, yet the Government has abandoned these children, just as it has abandoned any commitment to a school system that is accountable and works in the best interest of pupils, parents and teachers.
“Labour will end the academies programme and allow local authorities to step in where academy chains fail so that schools are no longer left in limbo until central government hands them over to another trust.”