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Teachers Have Jeered An Education Minister Over His Academy Plans

Nick Gibb insisted the academies programme was "profession-led" – but teachers weren't convinced.

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Schools minister Nick Gibb has been jeered and laughed at by teachers as he defended the government's plans to turn all schools into academies.

The MP was answering questions at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) union's conference in Liverpool on Monday.

Serious concerns have been raised over Tory plans to force all schools in England to become academies within six years, taking them out of council control.

But Gibb insisted it was the right move. "The whole academies programme is about having a profession-led system, so that the profession is in charge and not local authority officials," he said.

"That's the system we're moving to. If you talk to headteachers who become heads of academies, they have flourished."

His speech was greeted with heckles and peals of laughter from the audience, with one person shouting "rubbish", according to the Press Association.

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@NickGibbMP says the academy programme is about a profession-led system. Gets a full-throated round of laughter from #ATLConf2016

The schools minister is getting a harsher treatment here at #ATLConf2016 than Morgan did at NASUWT. Lots of anger here

Labour has warned that the academy plans will cost taxpayers over £1 billion that has not been accounted for by government. But Gibb said this was "completely untrue".

"They haven't taken into account money made available in the spending review," he insisted. "Labour, when they did their calculations, did not look at that."

Asked whether there was a "recruitment crisis" in schools, Gibb picked his words carefully. "I think it's a big challenge," he said, sparking more laughter from delegates.

New research from the ATL on Monday showed that 4 in 5 teachers have considered leaving the profession due to workload pressures.

Kelly: 'do you now accept there is a recruitment crisis?' Gibb: 'I think there is a.. challenge' Conference: -.-

Gibb: "We are taking the workload issue very seriously." Delegates: *Laughter* #ATLConf2016

Speaking at the conference later on Monday, shadow education secretary Lucy Powell called on ministers to "radically rethink" their plans.

"This costly top-down reorganisation of our schools system is opposed by local government leaders including senior Conservative councillors, the National Governors Association, parents, school leaders and teachers," she said.

"Senior Tory MPs are also now raising concerns about the scheme. Schools that want to can already convert to become an academy and only last month ministers strengthened their powers to tackle failing schools. This plan isn't about school improvement or autonomy – it's a forced ideology that's not necessary."

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at emily.ashton@buzzfeed.com.

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