TORY-LED Yorkshire councils have turned against Government plans to force schools to become academies, saying the policy will distract from improving education and could threaten some schools.

Council leaders and education chiefs from North Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire councils - both Conservative controlled - have spoken out against the policy, but York's own Tory leaders have stuck closer to the national party line.

East Riding's leader Cllr Stephen Parnaby, education chief Cllr Julie Abraham, and key committee chairman Cllr Kerri Harold have jointly written to education secretary Nicky Morgan telling her that forcing their schools - many of which are small and rural - to become academies is not "suitable or sustainable" and warned that it could lead to small village schools closuring because they cannot cope with the bureaucracy, and are not attractive prospects to multi academy trusts.

They said: "It is our view that academisation and Multi Academy Trusts is a very urban solution to bring about improvement in our nation's schools.

"Children and young people in rural authorities across the country deserve a model that reflects and respects their geography and sense of place."

They go on to say that the policy is "counter intuitive" and will not just damage rural schools but will be a "huge distraction" to the rest of the East Riding schools which are working hard towards improvement.

Those views have been echoed by North Yorkshire's education chief Cllr Arthur Barker, who said they will be expressing similar views to the Secretary of State.

Cllr Barker said his authority, like the East Riding, has scores of small rural schools, many with fewer than 90 pupils.

"You have got to understand that rural areas will be different to the centre of Surbiton," he added, saying that while the North Yorkshire councillors support schools becoming academies if they chose to do so, they are not happy with the forced element.

Beyond the issue of rural schools, Cllr Barker said they were worried about how local authorities will fulfil their legal duty to provide schools places when they have no power over the academy chains running education in their areas.

York's Conservative council leader Chris Steward has backed the academisation policy, saying it will "enable the best in our strongest schools to be better shared with others."

However, he did admit that the city's Tory councillors were continuing to discuss the forced element of the policy and would feed in their views to government as "part of a journey about the best change and influencing that positively rather than the outright opposition some people have."