Force all schools to become academies by 2020, demands Policy Exchange

All schools in England should be forced to become academies in the next five years, the right-leaning thinktank Policy Exchange has claimed.

The next stage of improvement for primary schools in England report, published today, calls on the government to introduce legislation to convert the 89 per cent of primary schools and 44 per cent of secondary schools which have not yet made the change.

It comes after it was revealed 20 per cent of primary schools could fail to reach the government’s new minimum standards for performance in less than two years time.

The report said the mass conversion of the remaining schools was “the only viable opportunity for the sector to mitigate against the risk of mass failure”, but also called for councils to be encouraged to set up their own academy trusts as a proposed solution to what it sees as a poor conversion rate at primary level.

It comes after figures revealed that more than 3,000 primary schools could fall below the government’s performance targets in 2016. It also comes in the wake of the news that although more than half of secondary schools have converted to academy status, just 11 per cent of primary schools have made the change.

Policy Exchange head of education Jonathan Simons (pictured) said: “The government has made great strides to improve the performance of our primary schools so that all children, regardless of their background, can read and write and add up to an appropriate standard when they reach secondary school.

This report’s conclusion is that bringing schools together in Academy chains is what is needed

“However, a potential perfect storm of a new curriculum and assessment system and a demand for higher standards accompanied by a decline in leadership and local authority capacity means that thousands of primary schools could be set to fail come 2016.

“The question for government is how can the expertise, capacity and capability of the best schools, leaders and teachers be harnessed and magnified in order to avoid this. This report’s conclusion is that bringing schools together in Academy chains is what is needed.

“And whilst there are some already moving in this direction, simply leaving it up to individual schools risks being too slow.

“Academy status is not some sort of panacea which will automatically lead to improvements. However, it is clear that the creation of groups of schools collaborating together and sharing best practice is what is needed, and this report sets out a framework for how this can be maximised.”

Sir David Carter, regional schools commissioner for south-west England, said: “One in five schools will struggle to meet new floor standards in 2016 without a fundamental change to the way we approach primary education.

“We simply cannot meet ambitious new goals, compete and beat our international competitors, and lay the foundation for the world class outcomes we all want by simply working harder within the framework of the current system.

“This new report is ground breaking, visionary and paints a picture of the future landscape that will be challenging in concept but revolutionary in its execution. An entirely autonomous academised system is a vision which I wholly endorse.”

The report also recommends that special schools be converted in the same time period and that individual institutions should be allowed to switch between chains if they are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

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