Three schools have applied and have opened as academies in Lancaster and Fleetwood. Those schools are Lancaster royal grammar school, Lancaster girls grammar school and Ripley St Thomas Church of England high school. The total number of open academies stands at 658, and more than 1,000 schools in England have applied to convert to academy status since June 2010.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that success, and I thank him and his officials for their help with regard to Lancaster. Will he ensure that every assistance is given to schools that specialise in teaching children with special educational needs so that they can enjoy the benefits of academy status?
I absolutely share my hon. Friend’s commitment to ensuring that all children, particularly those who have special educational needs, can benefit from these additional freedoms. I am working with the Minister of State, Department for Education, Sarah Teather to bring forward proposals to allow special schools to become academies.
The academy programme shows that the one-size-fits-all school is not what we need. May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his support for the groundbreaking boarding school element of Durand academy in my constituency? It will be the first free state boarding school for people from the most deprived areas, and the people of that school and the people of my community will welcome it.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the points that she makes. She is a consistent champion of helping people from poorer backgrounds to do better in state education. I place on the record my thanks to her for the support that she has given the outstanding team of teachers at Durand academy. I hope that this new initiative ensures that the children at that school continue to have an education of the highest quality. I am sure that we can make common cause of our shared commitment to ensuring that children from poorer backgrounds enjoy the sort of education previously restricted to those from richer backgrounds.