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MPs dismiss academy call


MPs have hit out at calls by the Education Secretary to support the conversion of city primary schools to academies.

Michael Gove wrote to Leicester's Labour MPs, Jon Ashworth, Keith Vaz and Liz Kendall, asking them to support plans to convert under-performing primaries into sponsored academies.

In what is being seen as a dig at the Labour-run city council, Mr Gove said in a speech this week that "local forces of conservatism" were working against reform.

Leicester has one of the lowest numbers of academy schools in the country.

Liz Kendall, MP for Leicester West, said Mr Gove was "oblivious" to the progress being made in the city's schools.

"There's not one ounce of complacency in the city as we all work hard to raise the achievements of every child, in every school," she said.

"That means doing even more to improve early years services, getting the best teachers in place, engaging with parents and building effective partnerships so schools learn from each other.

"Unlike Mr Gove, who has never been to Leicester West, I visit a different primary here each week.

"I'm happy to meet him to discuss what our schools really need, rather than simply have him issue instructions from on high."

Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth said he would support schools and parents in favour of the change, but said: "I don't want to support Mr Gove sitting in Whitehall attempting to railroad his preferred structure on to Leicester.

"If he was really committed to raising standards he wouldn't be imposing the biggest cut to school budgets since the 1950s."

Leicester East MP Keith Vaz said he was happy to meet the Education Secretary to discuss proposals, but said the city's schools had improved enormously over the past five years.

In his letter, Mr Gove said there were compelling arguments for conversion.

He said: "A transformative drive has not taken root in Leicester, where too many schools under-perform.

"This is particularly the case for primaries."

Provisional test results from the summer showed 90 per cent of children in the city made the expected level of progress at English – compared with 89 per cent nationally.

In maths, 87 per cent of youngsters in Leicester made the expected level of progress – on a par with those nationally.

Councillor Vi Dempster, assistant city mayor for schools, said: "The data shows our strong partnership is improving standards without changing a school's governance.

"Why would we want to waste time changing this when we know what we're doing works?"

Peter Flack, assistant secretary for Leicester's branch of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Leicester has no more under-performing schools than anywhere else.

"What's different is that we have very few academies.

"Mr Gove is intent on forcing his privatisation agenda and isn't interested in learning or pupil progress."

Last year, Mr Gove said the Government planned to turn 200 of the worst primaries in England – seven of them in Leicester – into academies.

Since then, one – Queensmead, in Braunstone – has made the decision to convert.

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