Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Ed Balls attacks academies policy

Education Secretary Michael Gove has 'failed the fairness test', Ed Balls said.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has "failed the fairness test" with his academy school policy by directing more funds at schools which are already performing well at the expense of those with the greatest needs, Labour's Ed Balls said.

While Labour's academies programme aimed to improve educational standards in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, Mr Gove's scheme is biased towards high-performing schools in less deprived areas, the shadow education secretary said.

Branding the Government's academy programme "elitist", Mr Balls said: "The only similarity between Labour's academies policy and Michael Gove's is that they have the same name."

At a Fabian Society event, Mr Balls will release research suggesting that the 32 schools which were fast-tracked to academy status by Mr Gove this term had fewer pupils with special needs or from disadvantaged backgrounds, compared to those approved by Labour ahead of the election.

Among the 64 schools reopening as academies this term under Labour's programme, some 13.8% of pupils had special educational needs, compared to 6.9% in the 32 academies opened under Mr Gove's scheme, he said.

The average child deprivation index for areas where the "Labour academies" are opening stood at 27%, compared to 17% for the areas served by the academies opening under the Tory scheme.

And exam results in the 32 academies opened under the coalition Government's programme were well above the national average, with 72.6% of pupils getting five good GCSEs including English and maths last year. This compares to a national average of 50.7% and an average of 30.8% in the 64 academies approved by Labour.

Mr Balls said: "The Tory-Lib Dem government's policies fail the fairness test. This analysis of academies opening this term highlights the stark contrast between a progressive education policy under Labour to tackle disadvantage and under-performance and Michael Gove's elitist policy which is simply about rewarding schools that are already doing well.

"Through this new Tory academies policy, the Education Secretary is giving high-performing schools in less deprived areas and with fewer children with special educational needs more funding at the expense of schools which need it most. That cannot be fair by any definition of the word.

"Schools in more deprived areas with more children with special educational needs and lower results will be left with fewer resources than they need to tackle the barriers to learning their children face."

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