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03.06.15

Government to turn all failing schools into academies

As many as a thousand schools in England, including all those rated inadequate by Ofsted, will be turned into academies, under new government plans.

The Education and Adoption Bill will “sweep away bureaucratic and legal loopholes” that previously prevented schools from being improved, according to the education secretary.

The government argues that previously campaigners could delay or overrule failing schools being improved by education experts by obstructing the process by which academy sponsors take over schools.

Their delaying tactics include mounting lengthy appeals, refusing to supply essential documents and staging council votes opposing the move.

But the new bill will force councils and governing bodies to actively progress the conversion of failing schools into academies, “removing roadblocks which previously left too many pupils languishing in underperforming schools”.

Schools considered to be "coasting" also face being taken over as part of the fresh government bid to raise standards.

Nicky Morgan said: “Today’s landmark bill will allow the best education experts to intervene in poor schools from the first day we spot failure. It will sweep away the bureaucratic and legal loopholes previously exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children.”

She added: “Hundreds of schools, often in disadvantaged areas, are already being turned around thanks to the help of strong academy sponsors - education experts who know exactly what they have to do to make a failing school outstanding.

“This bill will allow them to do their job faster and more effectively, ensuring that thousands more pupils, from across the country, get the world-class education they deserve.”

Teaching unions have already spoken out objecting to the bill. They claim that Morgan is trying to accelerate the conversion of schools into academies by ignoring and overriding the legitimate objections of local people.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “The Coalition government railroaded through its Academies Act with the minimum of consultation, and regularly used force and coercion to push schools towards academisation.

“This Bill promises more of the same but with an additional intention to silence critics, including parents and teachers as well as elected local councillors and the communities which schools serve.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said that all pupils deserve an excellent education but forcing schools to become academies is not the answer.

“Local people are not being obstructive when they raise legitimate concerns about the forced academisation of their schools,” she added.

"As the Education Select Committee has said, it's too early to say whether academies are a positive force for change, and we know from the Public Accounts Committee that 18 academy chains were prevented from expanding further because of concerns about standards in their schools. Academy sponsors are not the sole source of education expertise that the government would want us all to believe."

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