Academy move for failing primary schools


Every failing primary school is to be turned into an academy, Michael Gove announced today.

The Education Secretary said it was time to "accelerate" their school improvement programme.

It would be "morally reprehensible" to allow children to continue to be taught in poor schools, he suggested.

Under the plans, every primary school in England that has been put in special measures, or been given a notice to improve by Ofsted, will become a sponsored academy.

Giving a speech in central London this afternoon, Mr Gove said that 220 of the worst performing primaries in the country now have agreements in place to take on academy status.

He said: "It seems to me that having reached that milestone, now is the time to accelerate - and in particular to increase our ambition for those areas of our country where concentrations of poor schools are failing communities of poor children.

"So in the next year I want to extend our academies programme to tackle the entrenched culture of under-achievement in parts of the country where children are being failed.

"We will seek sponsors for every primary school in the country which is in special measures or the Ofsted category notice to improve."

Mr Gove said that he was inviting new academy sponsors to come forward and creating a fund to help charities, schools, colleges and others to sponsor schools.

"They are the engine of school improvement - and we want to take off the brakes, so they can go further, faster.

"We will also identify the areas with the highest concentration of underperforming schools.

"These are parts of the country where children are being let down, year after year after year - and where the alternative options available to parents are poor, or non-existent.

"It would be morally reprehensible to allow this situation to continue any longer, and we will not allow it. We need to intervene at every point to help those children."

Downhills primary school in north London is one of those that now has a plan in place to become an academy, despite a local campaign against the move.

The school was placed in special measures earlier this year after failing an Ofsted inspection.

As a result, the Department for Education (DfE), which maintains that the school has struggled to meet acceptable standards for years, said it should be turned into an academy by September.

There has been a local campaign by some parents, teachers and community members to keep Downhills under local authority control, and teachers at the school - all members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) - took strike action over the move.

Academies are semi-independent state schools that receive funding directly, rather than through a local authority, and have more freedom over areas such as pay and conditions and the curriculum.

The latest Ofsted figures show that as of the end of March, 233 primary schools were in special measures and 144 primary schools had been given a notice to improve.

Some of those schools will be among the 220 worst-performing schools which have already converted or are doing so.

It is thought that some of the 220 will not have been in these categories.

It is understood that the Department for Education has identified around 300 primaries which are in special measures, or been given a notice to improve that have not yet made a move towards becoming an academy.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said: "At a time of school budget cuts Michael Gove's proposal to set up a fund to support new academy sponsors is simply wrong. There is no evidence to support the idea that academies result in school improvement and no real appetite for academies amongst parents, teachers or local communities.

"Michael Gove needs to understand that 'adults' who do not agree with him are not always wrong. This is state education, funded by the taxpayer. It is time that the Education Secretary stood back to consult and consider, rather than hurtling head first down a route that is neither wanted nor needed."