Tories plan primary 'academies'

Successful primary schools will be given independence from local authority control by a Conservative Government, with power over their own budgets, curriculum, discipline and staff, shadow education secretary Michael Gove announced today.





And Conservatives would allow community groups, charities, philanthropists and education federations to set up new state primary schools to give parents of 4-11 year-olds more choice.



The Tories have already promised to extend the Government's academy programme to the bulk of secondary schools, but the new policy goes further in offering the same independence within the state sector to thousands of primaries.



Mr Gove said: "Academy freedoms for secondary schools have already helped thousands of disadvantaged children by driving up standards in the state sector. We want to allow the same thing to happen in primary schools.



"Making schools genuinely accountable to parents by freeing them from political interference and giving them control over budgets, curriculum and staff could make a real difference to the opportunities for some of the most deprived children."



Unveiling details of the proposals ahead of this weekend's Conservative Spring Forum in Cheltenham, Mr Gove accused the Government of letting a generation of children down.



He highlighted official figures showing that four out of 10 children leave primary school in England unable to read, write and add up, and that 34,000 11-year-olds have a reading age below that expected of a six-year-old.



And he said that failure at primary level has serious knock-on effects on children's performance at secondary school and in GCSEs.



Under the Tory plan, state primary schools which have demonstrated good performance and leadership will be given freedom from local authority control and new powers over their own curriculum, budget and hours.



Schools with consistently poor results under council stewardship will be taken over by organisations with a track record of delivering successful academy schools - such as the ARK charity, the Mercers Company and the Harris Federation.



Tories will also allow the creation of new independent primary schools within the state sector by existing federations, parents' groups and charities along the lines of a system operating in Sweden which they have already said they will apply at the secondary level.



A party aide said the scheme would "give all parents the power that only richer parents have now - real choice of school - (and) allow different communities, from deprived inner cities to rural villages, to create and nurture good local primary schools".

Schools minister Jim Knight said: "This announcement is risky, ill-thought through and will send a chill down the spines of parents and teachers around the country.



"Our priority in primary education is to get schools working together to make budgets go further, improve leadership and extend specialist teaching so that all children master the basics and no child falls behind.



"All the Tories seem to care about is primary schools going it alone and opting out of the national curriculum in an unregulated free market experiment.



"We have shown over recent years how, where large secondary schools in disadvantaged areas have underperformed, the radical intervention of an academy works to raise standards. But the radical solution for underperforming small primary schools is co-operation not independence.



"The Tories already oppose our academies policy and our National Challenge programme. Their approach is instead to leave weaker schools to underperform rather than intervene, while they divert billions of pounds in cuts from existing schools and our school building programme in a flawed and unfair free market.



"The fact that they now want to extend this Tory approach to primary schools is further evidence that the Conservatives are lurching rapidly to the right."



Mr Gove denied that his proposals for primary academies would make the education system more expensive.



Asked if the changes would cost more money, he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "Not intrinsically, no."



He added: "We want to make sure that the current expenditure on education is better spent and crucially that more is spent on the disadvantaged. We believe that our reforms will make sure that the money currently spent is spent better."



Mr Gove told Today: "The city academy programme has been explicitly designed to raise achievement in disadvantaged areas. One of the big problems we have in education at the moment is that children from poorer backgrounds are falling further and further behind children from more fortunate backgrounds and they start falling behind right at the very moment that they start their education.



"So we need reform to begin almost from day one that they cross the threshold of the primary school. We need to do everything possible to ensure that the DNA of the academy programme - which has been successful in driving up standards - is transferred to the very beginning of schooling.



"Good headteachers are consistent in saying that they want more freedom, more autonomy. The best headteachers will say that they can do even better when they have the freedom to shape the curriculum in the interests of individual pupils, rather than necessarily following exactly the prescriptive, micro-managed approach that this Government requires."





Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Nurse and Room Leader - Hackney

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a qualified childcare p...

QAA: Independent member of the QAA Board of Directors

Expenses paid in connection with duties: QAA: QAA is inviting applications to ...

AER Teachers: PPA TEACHER/MENTOR

£27000 - £37000 per annum: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This is a large and vibra...

AER Teachers: EYFS Teacher

£27000 - £37000 per annum: AER Teachers: EYFS TEACHERAn 'Outstanding' Primary ...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea