Only 32 schools will reopen as academies

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The Independent Online

Just 32 schools will reopen as academies this month after taking Education Secretary Michael Gove up on his offer to apply for the status, government figures will reveal today.

It is understood that the majority of those opening are "outstanding" schools, or involved in federations with "outstanding schools".

Mr Gove wrote to every primary, secondary and special school in England in May inviting them to apply for academy status and the coalition Government moved swiftly to pass a new Bill to allow schools to opt out of local authority control and take up the offer.

The speed at which the legislation moved through Parliament led to accusations that ministers rushed the reforms using a timetable usually reserved for emergency laws, such as anti-terror powers.

Official figures from the Department for Education will today show that six weeks after the legislation became law, only 32 schools have completed the process to open as academies this month, with 142 in total expected to convert over the coming academic year. More than 2,000 schools have expressed an interest in becoming an academy.

Announcing that every school could apply for the freedoms in May, Mr Gove said academies could become "the norm" in England's education system, adding he anticipated a high take-up of his offer. He insisted it was down to individual schools to make the decision.

Schools rated "outstanding" by Ofsted were pre-approved, meaning that those under this category who applied immediately are the most likely to open as academies first.

A spokesman for Mr Gove said today: "This is part of Mr Gove's overall vision - that teachers and heads should control schools, not politicians and bureaucrats."

The announcement comes as children across the country prepare to return to school after the summer holidays.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union said there were concerns that schools had not properly consulted with staff, parents and their local community over decisions to convert.

She said: "However, despite the unacceptable tactics to seek to tempt schools into becoming academies and repeated claims by the Secretary of State for Education of widespread interest in academy status, only a handful of schools it seems will convert on 1 September."

The reason for "low take-up" is because the Government has "misjudged the situation", Ms Keates said.

"Those promoting academy status are bankrupt of strong, persuasive arguments. Assertions of vast amounts of additional money for academies have proved to be gross exaggerations.

"The fact that on becoming an academy a school becomes a charitable company limited by guarantee sits uneasily with many governors and parents. The unseemly manner and speed with which the Academies Act was bludgeoned through Parliament has left important points of detail unaddressed.

"But the killer blow is that there is no evidence to present that academy status is the key to raising standards."