Sponsors for every primary school to be sought

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MORE than 30 “under performing” primary schools across Yorkshire are to be converted into academies in a Government crackdown on those which are consistently missing national targets.

The Yorkshire Post can reveal that 33 schools in the region are among 220 nationally which have been targeted by the Department for Education (DfE) for academy conversion.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said this week that these 220 schools were among the worst performing in the country.

They have been targeted because their 11-year-old pupils have not been reaching expected levels in English and maths in tests over a five-year-period.

Now the Government is stepping up its academy plans with major interventions in areas such as Leeds where Ministers believe too many schools are failing to hit targets set for 11-year-old pupils.

Leeds is being targeted by the Government because it has one of the highest levels of primaries not achieving national targets among similar areas in the country.

The DfE has also vowed to turn every school judged to be failing by Ofsted into an academy.

Academies are state-funded schools which are removed from local council control and receive funding direct from central Government.

Struggling schools which are being converted into academies will be led by an outside sponsor – such as an education charity or an existing successful school.

Last year Ministers announced that 200 of the most under performing primary schools in the country would be converted into academies.

The criteria was schools which have consistently failed to achieve the national target of getting 60 per cent of their 11-year-old pupils to the standard expected of their age group in English and maths in standard assessment tests (SATS) and where less than 60 per cent of children have made the expected level of progress in the two core subjects between the ages of seven and 11 for five year groups in a row.

New figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post show that there are 33 such primary schools across the region which have or are now converting to academy status following the Government’s intervention. The Government’s plan to target all schools rated as inadequate by Ofsted could see scores more primary schools in Yorkshire being told to convert.

Mr Gove unveiled plans on Tuesday for every primary school in England that is currently in special measures, or which is under a notice to improve to become a sponsored academy.

In Yorkshire there are currently 46 school primaries that fall into this category.

It is not known how many of those are already on the Government’s target list for failing to hit national standards in SATs tests.

Announcing the plans to target schools rated as failing by Ofsted Mr Gove said: “We will seek sponsors for every primary school in the country which is in special measures or the Ofsted category notice to improve.”

Mr Gove said that he was inviting new academy sponsors to come forward and creating a fund to help charities, schools, colleges and others to sponsor schools.

“They are the engine of school improvement – and we want to take off the brakes, so they can go further, faster,” he said.

“We will also identify the areas with the highest concentration of underperforming schools.

“These are parts of the country where children are being let down, year after year after year - and where the alternative options available to parents are poor, or non-existent,” he added.

The roll-out of the academies programme for struggling schools has resulted in disputes with teaching unions in London and Birmingham.

Downhills primary school in north London has been at the centre of a high profile controversy over its academy conversion with the Government facing a local campaign against the move.

The school was placed in special measures earlier this year after failing an Ofsted inspection and as a result, the DfE , which maintains that the school has struggled to meet acceptable standards for years, said it should be turned into an academy by September.

There has been a local campaign by some parents, teachers and community members to keep Downhills under local authority control and teachers who were members of the National Union of Teachers took strike action.

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