DOZENS of underperforming Lancashire primary schools could be pushed into becoming academies in a bid to raise standards, a government education chief said today.
Schools Commissioner Dr Liz Sidwell has warned primaries who consistently fail to make the grade in test results and Ofsted inspections could be taken out of local authority control and made into academies linked to higher performing schools.
The Department for Education (DfE) has identified 36 of the county’s 484 primary schools as struggling.
Of those, 32 have been deemed to be below the Government’s “floor standard” for results in Key Stage Two tests. The DfE claims a third of local pupils are below expected standards in reading, writing and maths going into secondary school.
However, Lancashire County Council leader Coun Geoff Driver described the Department’s take on the figures as “distorted”.
The DfE refused to name schools on the list, revealing only that four are in Preston, two in South Ribble, three in Morecambe and Lunesdale, two in Lancaster and Fleetwood, two in Chorley, four in West Lancashire and one each in Fylde and Wyre. The rest are in east Lancashire.
Ahead of a visit to Lancashire today, Dr Sidwell, a former academy headteacher, said: “When schools have been struggling for years, we simply cannot stand by and allow things to continue as they are. That is why we want to turn around a number of primary schools in Lancashire.
“By becoming academies, these primary schools will thrive under the leadership of some of our best school leaders rather than staying under local authority control, which clearly isn’t working.”
Four primaries in Lancashire have already converted to academies. Schools can apply out of choice, but teaching unions have raised concerns about struggling schools being ‘forced’ into becoming academies against the wishes of their governing bodies.
Coun Susie Charles, LCC cabinet member for schools, said: “The attainment of primary school pupils in Lancashire is consistently above the national average. Early indications of Key Stage Two results for this year indicate that many of the schools that were below the government’s new higher floor target last year have made very significant improvements.
“Despite having the highest levels of disadvantage across all of the counties, Lancashire has one of the lowest proportion of schools that are judged to be inadequate by Ofsted.”
Coun Driver added: “I’m surprised and disappointed the DfE has chosen to make an announcement in this way because not only does it seriously distort the position in Lancashire but also there is a danger it undermines all the very good work done by our dedicated teachers and children themselves.”