200 failing primary schools will re-open as academies

Catherine Gaunt
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hundreds of underperforming primary schools will be forced to convert to academies under plans set out by education secretary Michael Gove.

In a speech at the National College of School Leadership in Birmingham, Mr Gove will say that 200 primaries will become academies and 500 other primary schools will be earmarked for academy status if they fail to improve.

The recent White Paper brought in new minimum standards that primary schools must meet – ‘a floor standard’. This means that 60 per cent of pupils should achieve a Level 4 in English and Maths at the age of 11, or make an average level of progress between seven and 11.

There are around 1,400 primary schools below this level. Around 200 schools that have been below the floor level for more than five years will re-open as academies in September 2012 and the Government is currently looking for new academy sponsors to take over the running of them.

A further 500 schools, which have been below the floor for two or three of the past four years, will be identified and forced to improve or will be turned into academies.

‘We want to support local authorities in turning around the 500 schools who have fallen below the floor in at least three of the past four years. Several months ago I asked local authorities to draw up plans showing how they intended to improve their weaker schools.

‘These have now been submitted and some of them are very impressive showing clear leadership and engagement with the problems of long-term underperformance,’ Mr Gove says.

In the next few months, the Government will identify local authorities, or areas in local authorities, that have significant numbers of underperforming primary schools and give them financial and logistic support.

Eighty-eight sponsored academies will open in 2011-12, 13 of which are primary schools, 73 secondary schools and two all through academies.

‘Evidence shows that the academy programme has had a good effect on school standards. Heads and teachers should run schools and they should be more accountable to parents instead of politicians. We must go faster and further in using the programme to deal with underperforming schools,’ Mr Gove said.

But Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that converting schools to academies would not improve standards.

Primary schools had not been ‘clamouring’ to leave the local authority, she said, because ‘they value and need the additional support they receive from their local authority and neighbouring schools.

‘This is a totally unacceptable experiment to undertake with our primary school children. Since last September few primaries have voluntarily converted to academy status. Simply closing schools and replacing them with academies will not have the impact sought but will cause a great deal of confusion and distress for parents, pupils and staff.’

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