£2m fee to start academies will be scrapped

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School Secretary Ed Balls will today announce that he is scrapping the £2m fee for private companies and charities to sponsor one of the Government's flagship new academies.

The move is designed to lead to an increase in the number of sponsors coming forward to back the new privately-run state-funded schools next spring. The announcement comes with the opening of the 200th academy in the programme this morning, a year ahead of the target date set for reaching the figure.

Ministers waived the sponsorship fee for academies set up by universities, colleges and schools two years ago. It led to a spate of requests from education backers to support the programme. Forty new academies are opening this morning. Now the scheme is expanding to include the voluntary and private sector.

Mr Balls' announcement comes at a time when there has been criticism that he is less committed to the academies programme than his predecessors, talk which stemmed from the Cabinet reshuffle which saw Andrew Adonis, the architect of the academies programme, moved from education to transport.