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Academy Status

Volume 541: debated on Monday 27 February 2012

The Government will help every school that wishes to become an academy, because evidence shows that children do better when schools have the freedom to make their own decisions. The Department has published on its website comprehensive information and guidance on becoming an academy. All schools that apply to become an academy are provided with a named contact within the Department to support them through the conversion process. Schools are also able to apply for a grant to support them with the costs of conversion.

I am grateful for that reply, and I am pleased to be able to tell the Minister that two schools in my constituency have become academies, and they are doing well. However, should not the decision on whether to seek academy status be left entirely to the school and its local community rather than those schools being pressed and bullied, which is becoming far too frequent, particularly in relation to primary schools?

There is no bullying going on and schools are free to adopt academy status, but the Secretary of State and I are clear that we cannot allow schools that have underperformed year after year to continue to do so. That is why we are engaged in a process of working co-operatively with local authorities to convert underperforming schools—particularly the 200 worst performing primary schools—and to bring in an experienced academy sponsor to ensure that the children, who are often in the most disadvantaged parts of the country, have a proper education at long last.

The Darwen Aldridge Community Academy is a school in my constituency that has already achieved academy status. It recently applied to set up a studio school through the same foundation. Will the Minister update the House on when we will have a decision on the first round of bidding for studio schools, and how many applications there have been?

No numbers have yet been announced, but we will announce figures in due course. I wish that project every success. We need a school system that is diverse and that offers a range of educational opportunities to address all children’s interests and abilities.