These children are at primary, but academy heads want to take over their education

26th February 2010 at 00:00

Academy heads are lobbying ministers for a change in the law to enable them to take over the running of "dozens" of primary schools.

The Independent Academies Association (IAA), which represents about 100 principals, wants new legislation to allow academies to form hard federations with community primaries.

Mike Butler, chairman of the association, said there was widespread support for the move that would lead to an "explosion in the numbers" of all-through federations for children from three to 19 years-old.

"The feeling from colleagues who lead academies up and down the country is that there are many with willing primary school partners who would want to do this," he said.

Mr Butler, who is also executive principal of Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham, said that primaries could be re-branded under the academy name and would share a joint governing body and leadership team.

A school would also be able to spend more of its budget on early intervention with pupils rather than trying to rectify problems in secondary schools, Mr Butler said.

"This is not about academies taking over failing primaries, although that might be what happens in some cases," he said.

"Not all academy leaders have experience of the primary phase. We see this as a two-way thing, with secondary teachers learning from what is happening in primaries as well as the other way round."

Hard federations between an academy and one or two primary schools would smooth the transition for pupils between the phases, Mr Butler added.

"It will mean that education from three to 19 is properly mapped by professionals," said Mr Butler. "Whoever forms the next government should make that a key focus."

Current legislation forbids academies from forming hard federations with maintained primaries or secondaries. If that was changed, "dozens" of academies would be interested in forging federations with primary schools, according to the IAA.

The association has discussed the idea with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and said it received a positive reception.

Mr Butler said he was confident that the proposal would win support from whichever party forms the next government after the general election.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has also encouraged schools to consider forming federations as they seek to save money, with squeezed budgets due to kick in next year.

The Conservatives have said they will give all schools, including primaries, rated outstanding by Ofsted automatic approval to switch to academy status.

But John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said there was no desire among primaries to form federations that took them away from the local authority "family" of schools.

"I am inherently suspicious of unaccountable academies taking on primaries. The democratic deficit will yawn," he said.

"Within a local authority, schools benefit from co-operation that they will not get being tied to a single academy. Fracturing the maintained sector undermines the capacity of individual schools to work together in a flexible way."

A DCSF spokesman confirmed that it is not possible for academies to form hard federations with community schools, but added: "We are keen for academies to work closely with feeder primary schools to improve standards and there are already a number of all-through academies, including the West London Academy and the Priory Witham Academy.

"As part of the primary school chains system launched this week, academies, if accredited, could establish and lead trusts of local primaries."


The Government has spoken favourably about all-through schools for pupils aged three to 19, but there are only a handful of all-through academies.

One of the most recent is Bede Academy in Blyth, Northumberland, which opened in September last year.

David Wootton (pictured), chief executive of Emmanuel Schools Foundation, the academy's sponsor, said: "The benefits are the all-through approach to curriculum development and assessment.

"Avoiding the dip between the primary and secondary phases is a key issue. All of our leaders work across the phases.

"Being all-through allows for greater impact and gets children involved in the academy's way of learning earlier."

Although a single school, Bede Academy is on a split site, which separates the primary and secondary phases. When it is full, it will cater for 1,400 pupils.

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