Schools - Move defies our very principles

Everyone knows that education is one of the most important concerns facing any government, and our record on schooling and skills training stands up to any scrutiny.

Essential to improving schools and the quality of education is giving headteachers, school governors and parents the freedom they need in order to choose the most appropriate options fitting their pupils and communities.

The entire spirit of our reforms up to this point – especially allowing people to found their own free schools – has been to emphasise choice, options and freedom of action.

I was disappointed when the Government announced its intention to force every remaining non-academy school in England to become an academy.

This change is at a complete variance with all our reforms and undermines the very principles that lie at their heart.

One of the things we have managed to do quite well here in Lincolnshire is keep our small primary schools open.

This has been a conscious policy on the part of our councillors because they know the high quality of these schools and they see the excellent results they achieve.

Maintaining our small schools is an absolute priority, and I am very concerned that they might be undermined by academy status, especially if multiple small schools are forced to pool together to form a single academy.

Luckily, there have been many Conservative voices speaking out against this proposal, including here in the House of Commons, and I know the Education Secretary has had discussions with the Local Government Association about it. I am cautiously hopeful that it will be kicked into the long grass.

It’s a relief also that so many of my constituents agree with me that it is unfair of the government to spend £9 million promoting the Remain in the European Union campaign.

It would have been much more broad-minded if they had produced leaflets just giving the bare facts and leaving it to the voters to decide – that is the whole point of a referendum.

It is only thanks to the Prime Minister that we are having this referendum at all, but I do think the people in charge must do their best to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent in an even-handed way.

It would be bad for the whole country if this referendum leaves a lasting aftertaste of bitterness and unfairness.

The disastrous situation in Syria and Iraq is still ongoing, even though it seems to have escaped from our front pages.

We are organising a debate here in Parliament to highlight the terrible plight of Christians and other religious minorities living under Da’esh and encouraging the Government to recognise that genocide is taking place.

It is always the duty of we who are free and secure to champion those who are oppressed and in peril.

It should also help us, in this Easter season, to appreciate the blessings we enjoy here in England and too often take for granted.

Sir Edward Leigh MP

Gainsborough Constituency