UK Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced that hundreds of failing primary schools (given the lowest possible rating by Ofsted) will be transformed into independent academies run by a third party sponsor. Gove claims the move will raise standards and was necessary as the alternative — allowing young children to flounder in poor schools year after year — was âmorally reprehensible'.
Graeme Paton of the Telegraph reports that the move also represents an acceleration of the Government's education programme; it will forcibly remove from local council management more schools than have been removed by the Coalition since its election. The process of converting 220 of the worst primary schools into academies was already underway but the latest announcement will cover an additional 300 primary schools all of whom were rated inadequate by Ofsted.
The comments were made in a speech where he vowed to continue with reforms to school leadership, exams and the curriculum.
"We have to recognise that the fundamental problem with our schools is that not enough of them are good enough – and hundreds of thousands of our children are suffering as a result," he said.
"We have one of the most segregated and stratified education systems in the developed world – only the USA and Luxembourg are more unequal."
He added: "I don't believe an educational system which fails to give every child the chance to excel is morally defensible."
Once converted to academy status, the primary schools will be put in the power of education chains, charities and faith groups who have the ability to write their own curriculum, choose start times and duration of the school day and school year, and pay high performing staff more money. Gove also plans to set up a £10m fund to create more schools chain which will run failing schools.
"In the next year I want to extend our academies programme to tackle the entrenched culture of under-achievement in parts of the country where children are being failed," he said.
"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.
"It would be morally reprehensible to allow this situation to continue any longer, and we will not allow it. We need to intervene at every point to help those children."
During the speech Gove also defended his recent plans to reintroduce tough O-Level qualifications and scrap the current GCSE system. While Liberal Democrat Coalition colleagues had accused him of creating a two tier system by having the able pupils take O-Levels and the struggling pupils take an easier âCSE exam', Gove countered that every child would have the opportunity to sit the more rigorous qualification and this would be a much better system than the effective two tier system that currently exists with many pupils sitting worthless qualifications in failing schools.