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Bill plans more academy schools

Up to 1,000 failing schools will be turned into academies under new laws being introduced to Parliament, the Education Secretary has said.

Legal loopholes "exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children" will be closed to allow schools to be rapidly improved, Nicky Morgan insisted.

But critics of the plan branded it a "crude attack on state comprehensive education" and claimed it was irrational and impractical.

Every school in England rated inadequate by Ofsted will be turned into an academy under the Education and Adoption Bill.

New powers will speed up the process of changing a failing school's leadership and stop campaigners "obstructing" takeovers, according to the Department for Education (DfE).

Ms 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.

"At the heart of our commitment to delivering real social justice is our belief that every pupil deserves an excellent education and that no parent should have to be content with their child spending a single day in a failing school.

"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."

The Government has been able to intervene in around half of maintained schools given inadequate ratings by the watchdog but the new measures will extend the power to all the schools.

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

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the Bill was intended to " silence critics, including parents and teachers".

"There are academies deemed 'inadequate' by Ofsted. A change in structure is not axiomatically the path to school improvement. It is irresponsible to tell parents otherwise.

"A pledge to convert 'up to 1,000' schools is as irrational as it is impractical. Head teachers are already in short supply, so the promise to sack more of them will simply exacerbate the problem. Where does Nicky Morgan imagine that new teachers and heads will come from?"

She added: "We at the NUT believe it should be the job of local authorities to assist schools. This would be preferable to sacking head teachers and silencing opposition to academisation by doing away with the already minimal level of consultation that is currently required.

"It is surely essential to the democratic process that those who seek to oppose and put brakes on the hasty and un-evidenced actions of Government are allowed to be heard.

"The public will see these proposals for what they really are: a crude attack on state comprehensive education and a further step towards full school privatisation."

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said: " Labour continues to support the principle of schools that are failing - be they academies or maintained schools - facing new leadership.

"But these measures do not meet the challenges we face in education, such as preventing educational inequality setting in during the early years and ensuring high-quality teachers are attracted into poorly performing areas. It is very depressing to see the Government's partisan and divisive education policy continuing into this parliament."

The DfE said a number of leading head teachers and education experts had backed the reforms, including Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive officer of the Inspiration Trust, which runs 12 schools and colleges in East Anglia.

She said: "We must intervene quickly and decisively so all pupils can experience the benefits of a great academy education and today's Bill will help sponsors like us to help more young people faster.

"As an academy principal and now CEO of a multi-academy trust I have seen for myself the power of academies to transform young lives and turn around failing and lacklustre schools quickly. A fresh start as an academy brings hope and new energy to staff and pupils."

Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said: "Hundreds of schools, often in disadvantaged areas, are being turned around thanks to the intervention of local councils.

"It's clear that strong leadership, outstanding classroom teaching and effective support staff and governors are the crucial factors in transforming standards in struggling schools.

"We want to see bureaucratic barriers that have for a long time prevented councils from intervening swept away.

"Councils are concerned with emerging evidence of a shortage of head teachers. We need to ensure that we focus our resources on ensuring there are enough outstanding school leaders, rather than on structures and legal status, as it is this which makes the difference we all want to see."

Ms Morgan dismissed claims that the reforms were aimed at stopping parents having a say in what happened to their child's school.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We want everybody to have a say but there comes a point at which children's education has to be absolutely paramount.

"These are schools that often have been failing, not just for months but often years, and they have been in special measures for quite some time.

"We think that a day spent in special measures is a day too long where a child's education is concerned."


From Belfast Telegraph