More schools choose independence

THE NUMBER of academies in England has doubled in the past six months with one in 10 secondary schools now being run independently, according to Government figures published today.

There have been 204 schools that have switched to academy status since Ministers invited all outstanding secondaries and primaries to opt out of their local education authority (LEA) last summer.

And this week 46 schools across the country opened as academies including two in West Yorkshire. Greetland Primary and Morley High are now both independently-run state schools with funding direct from central Government.

Academies were launched by the last Government as a way of raising standards at struggling inner-city secondary schools. Under Labour's model, a school was shut down and replaced with an academy in a new school building backed by a private sponsor.

These schools were taken out of their local council control and given the freedom to set their own curriculum, timetable and admissions and greater control over their budget and employment arrangements. Now the coalition Government is looking to extend these freedoms to the country's best performing state schools.

The latest wave of academies sees schools remaining open and in their existing buildings but taken out of their LEA.

Initially any primary or secondary school given Ofsted's top rating of outstanding was invited to become an academy.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has since extended this to include special schools and to any school which is rated by Ofsted as good. Those rated as satisfactory or inadequate can still apply for academy status by teaming up with a stronger performing school.

Mr Gove said: "I am delighted that more schools are opening as academies this week, and are now free from central and local bureaucratic control.

"Schools are taking up our offer to become academies because they recognise the huge benefits of being an academy – more autonomy, more power to teachers, and an opportunity to thrive, free from interference from Government.

"The coalition believes that head teachers and teachers – not politicians and bureaucrats – know best how to run schools."

There are now 407 academies across the country including 371 secondaries.

The latest increase in numbers means 11 per cent of secondary schools in England are now academies. One hundred of these have converted to academy status since the Government invited schools to apply last summer.

The figures published by the Department for Education show 36 primary schools have also now converted.

Headteachers in Yorkshire schools welcomed being allowed to become independent from council control.

Morley Academy's head teacher John Townsley said: "Becoming an academy is of immense importance to Morley High School. We re-opened as the Morley Academy this week and, as a direct consequence of our change of status, we will begin to play an even greater part in transforming the educational experience of thousands of young people.

"As an outstanding school we are being given greater freedom and trust and we intend to use that freedom to maximum effect.

"Already an organisation with a track record of highly-effective intervention in less-effective schools we will now drive forward with an even greater sense of purpose in this area.

"We remain convinced that so much is to be gained from highly- effective schools working in partnership with less-effective schools to raise standards of achievement. Becoming an academy provides us with the flexibility and additional resourcing to work on a number of fronts with a range of partners in a manner which will have an enormous impact on so many students."