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Academies: Exam Results

Volume 593: debated on Monday 2 March 2015

This year’s key stage 4 results are the first since crucial reforms to our qualification and accountability systems, which were designed to raise the bar for our children, came into force. Overall, the proportion of pupils achieving A* to C grades including English and maths in state schools fell across all types of school. There has been a 71% increase in the number of pupils taking the key academic subjects that will prepare them better for life in modern Britain.

That was a bit of a non-answer. If an academy is successful, parents are happy and so am I, but what if an academy is getting bad results and is on the way down? What powers are there for local people to enable them to have any influence whatsoever on the future of that academy?

I do not think that saying that 71% of pupils are taking the more academic subjects most highly valued by employers and universities could be described as a non-answer. In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question, I am sure that as the local Member of Parliament he will be working closely with the regional schools commissioner, the head teacher, the teachers and the governors of that school. What we all want at the end of the day is the best possible education for our young people.

I was able to see for myself at Kennington Church of England junior academy on Friday the benefits of academy status in improving a school that has had serious weaknesses in the past. Does the Secretary of State agree that academy status increasingly benefits not just secondary schools but primary schools?

I agree very much with my right hon. Friend. He will want to know that the first wave of sponsored primary academies, which opened in September 2012, has seen the proportion of pupils achieving levels 4 and above in reading, writing and maths increase by 9 percentage points, double the rate of improvement in local authority-maintained schools over the same period.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the Grace academy in Coventry. She facilitated a meeting with one of her Ministers and we are grateful for that, but she will understand—and I hope will therefore follow it up closely herself—that the proof of the pudding will be in the effective action taken to deal with the situation. We have no indication that it is improving and the career prospects of 1,000 young children are being put at risk.

I was pleased to facilitate the hon. Gentleman’s meeting with the Minister in question, one of my excellent team of Ministers. We will of course always maintain a close watch over all academies and their results. He might like to know that secondary converter academies perform well above average, with 64% of pupils achieving five or more good GCSEs in 2014 compared with 54% in local authority schools.

Late last week, it was announced that Pendle primary academy in Brierfield has been rated as good with outstanding features and outstanding behaviour by Ofsted, a big turnaround for a school deemed to be in need of major improvement just two years ago, before it became an academy. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the principal, Mrs Burnside, all the staff and the outstanding Nelson and Colne college, which sponsors Pendle primary academy?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. It is an absolute pleasure to congratulate the head teacher, Mrs Burnside, and all the staff, governors and pupils on their hard work in achieving those spectacular results. I greatly enjoyed my recent visit to schools in Pendle.