Nicky Morgan has told an education conference that she wants maintained schools to become academies because the change in status will give the goverment “much swifter powers” to intervene if they fail.
The education secretary said today that her department did “not hesitate to intervene in academies that are failing”.
“We as a department have much swifter powers to do that than we do in local authority maintained schools, which can often languish for more than an academic year in special measures and that’s not fair on the children in those schools,” she added.
Ms Morgan said it would be unfair on children if the government avoided intervening in failing local authority schools.
Her comments come after the announcement of plans for new legislation that would force struggling maintained schools to become academies. Under the Education and Adoption Bill, up to 1,000 “failing” maintained schools will be made to convert.
At the conference, Ms Morgan was also asked by a Year 5 pupil whether she agreed that “setting standard tests sometimes stops our talents in other subjects from shining through.”
In response, she said: “We need to take tests because we need to make sure that you, certainly at primary school but also at secondary, are really getting those absolute basics right.
“Because if people don’t learn to read and write well and to do maths then it’s much harder later on to go on and pass exams and much harder as well to go to university and to get jobs.”
She added that sports, music and drama were “really important things to do as well” but that “the core academic subjects are the things that set you up for life.”
She said: “At the end of the day, you can’t do music – or you can’t enjoy it so much – if you can’t count the number of beats in a bar and you can't perform plays if you can’t actually read the beautiful language in which they’re written. That’s why getting that core is right.”
During her speech Ms Morgan said schools should focus on stretching their most able students because “true social justice” meant “enabling the very brightest to jump from Bs to As, just as it does getting others from Ds to Cs.”
She said that there should be a “whole-school approach to character education” because this would help children to “become decent, happy, well-balanced citizens.”
“Building a strong character and a sense of moral purpose is part of the responsibility we have towards our children, our society and our nation,” she told the Festival of Education at Wellington College in Berkshire.
“Because if our schools don’t nurture and develop these key traits, we run the risk of creating a generation who excel at passing exams, writing essays, absorbing information, but without the skills they need to tackle the challenges that lie ahead and participate in society as active citizens, to make the right decisions and build their own moral framework.”