Gove forces academy switch on primaries

24th June 2011 at 01:00
`Worst' 700 to take on new status, with outstanding schools as sponsors

Westminster education secretary Michael Gove has signalled a major shift in the focus of his reforms, from the secondary to the primary sector, outlining plans to force the 700 worst-performing primaries to become academies.

Speaking at a National College leadership conference in Birmingham last week, Mr Gove laid out proposals to bring in higher-performing schools, including secondaries, to act as sponsors.

The news came as Mr Gove announced that he would be raising the bar for secondaries so that all schools must see 50 per cent of their pupils achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths, by 2015.

According to the Department for Education, approximately 1,000 primary schools are failing to reach the floor target of 60 per cent of pupils achieving level 4 in English and maths at key stage 2, set by the previous Labour government. Ministers recognised that it was possible this number could change following this year's Sats.

But Mr Gove said he would focus on an initial 200 perennial under- performing schools that have failed to meet base level for five years or more, which he aims to turn into academies by the end of 2012.

The education secretary will bring in outstanding primary and secondary academies to take over the under-achieving primaries, whose improvement he views as critical to the Coalition's plans to raise standards across the board.

A source close to Mr Gove told The TES: "We believe primary schools are vital to what we are trying to do. Unlike secondary schools, primaries can be turned around more quickly, so we will want to see outstanding secondary and primary schools coming in to help turn these schools around that have been failing to hit the floor target for many years."

Dr Elizabeth Sidwell, schools commissioner and chief executive of Haberdashers' Aske's federation, will oversee the "brokering" of academies coming in to help run the 200 primary schools.

The DfE also has its sights on approximately 500 more schools that have failed to reach the required floor target for three years or more, but they are not expected to be targeted until later.

The move is expected to be met with caution from heads' union the NAHT, due to schools being forced to work in partnership with other more successful schools.

richard.vaughan@tes.co.uk.

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