Academy ardour in the South East

6th August 2010 at 01:00
Schools in and around the capital have greatest desire to chase the Gove dream

This is the first map to show the distribution of schools across England that have applied to become academies after the Government gave every school in the country the chance to convert.

Education Secretary Michael Gove came under fire last week when it emerged that just 153 schools had applied to become academies despite previous claims that the figure was more than 1,000.

The original list of schools that had expressed an interest in becoming an academy back in July showed a heavy bias towards Conservative local authorities, particularly in the Home Counties.

And despite less than 10 per cent of schools deciding to push ahead with becoming an academy by September, the map shows a very similar bias, with Kent having more schools wanting to become an academy than the whole of the North East.

John Howson, managing director of Education Data Surveys, a sister company of The TES, which compiled the map, said a very high percentage of schools were former grant maintained schools, but more surprising was the number of grammar schools.

"It is understandable that former grant-maintained schools have applied, as they do not have close links with their local authorities, but what is startling is the number of grammars," Mr Howson said. "They are risking everything on the hope that this coalition Government will last.

"All it will take is for this Government to collapse, say over the Alternative Vote, and a minority Labour government to get in and they could put a single-clause bill through in one day that would stop these grammars from being able to select."

According to Mr Howson, the number of Catholic schools that have applied has dramatically declined since the first list.

"It would appear that just one Catholic school, in Barnet, has applied to become an academy," he said. "There is a major issue surrounding land which the Catholic schools do not feel has been resolved, so nearly every Catholic school has been advised not to go near academies."

And Mr Howson, a former education policy adviser to the Liberal Democrats, said it was revealing that Mr Gove was focusing on the structures of schools.

"The bottom line is that the reason education secretaries look at dealing with structures is because it gives them an easy win. Trying to tackle the under performance of pupils in primary schools is far more taxing, but much more important in the long run."

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