Skip to main content

Primary Schools (Academy Status)

Volume 573: debated on Monday 6 January 2014

1. What assessment he has made of the performance of primary schools which have attained academy status. (901738)

I associate myself and those on the Front Bench, Mr Speaker, with your generous words towards Paul Goggins and his family. We all wish him a very speedy recovery.

In 2013, the proportion of pupils who achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics improved significantly more in sponsored academies than in local authority schools.

I wish you, Mr Speaker, and the whole House all the best for 2014.

I am most grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. Having been judged inadequate by Ofsted in each of the past two years, Elton primary school in my constituency is now the subject of a consultation with a view to its becoming an academy. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me and those parents who have concerns that all the evidence suggests that such a move is more likely to be beneficial than detrimental to their children’s education?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Parents are naturally nervous whenever there is a change of management or leadership in any school and so they should be—they care about their children. The evidence points to the fact that when primary and secondary schools have been converted to academies, they have made significant improvements. One of the most controversial academy conversions happened in Haringey when Downhills school was taken over by the Harris chain. That met furious opposition from the unions and some Labour MPs, but children in that school are now flourishing at last, as are children in so many other academy schools.

Does not the evidence show that the most important factor is the quality of teaching in our schools? Thousands of schools around the country have chosen not to go down the academy route. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Ranworth Square primary school in my constituency, where the majority of children are on free school meals but where last summer 93% achieved at least a level 4 in English, maths and writing?

That is a significant achievement and I am delighted to be able to congratulate the head and the team of teachers at that school. Many schools that I hugely admire have chosen not to go down the academy route. Thomas Jones primary in west London is one of the most outstanding schools in the country—100% of its children reach the level to which the hon. Gentleman refers—and is not an academy. For schools that are foundering or facing difficulties, however, academy solutions have, in an overwhelming number of circumstances, brought the improvement in results that we would all love to see.

Will the Secretary of State update the House on what steps he has taken to enable good primary schools to expand, and parents to open new primary schools, in areas where new housing has created high demand for places?

To facilitate expansion, we have made sure that all local authority schools receive additional support through the targeted basic need and basic need funding, which the Government have made available in more generous terms than any previous Government. We have also seen 174 new free schools open, giving parents a choice of new, high-quality schools to ensure that their children have the best possible start in life.

When a primary academy in a village goes belly up and all the parents start moving their kids, who will step in to bail out that school and ensure that the village retains a school for the future?

Without knowing the specifics of the case to which the hon. Gentleman alludes, I am cautious about venturing into too much detail. Whenever any school enters difficulties, whether it is run by an academy chain or a local authority, the Department for Education is always ready to ensure that an appropriate sponsor is in place to rescue that school.

How many academies were there in May 2010, how many are there now and what has been the improvement in educational attainment as a result?

There were just over 200 academies in May 2010—203, I believe—and there are now more than 3,000. As Ofsted reported in its most recent annual report, the biggest increase in the quality of good and outstanding lessons ever in the history of the inspectorate has occurred under this Government.