Maintained Schools

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham 12:00 am, 25th April 2016

If she will make it her policy that maintained schools be given the choice of whether to become academies.

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

Academies reject the old one-size-fits-all approach, and are more dynamic and responsive to performance and the needs of local areas. In the next six years, schools will have time to make choices and to set in place arrangements that will work for them, either as standalone academies or in multi-academy trusts, including diocesan trusts and operating in local clusters.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham

It will by now be clear to the Secretary of State that Conservative Members, not just Opposition Members, believe schools should have some choice in whether they become academies. Headteachers of excellent primary schools say they have more autonomy with their local authority than they would as members of a multi-academy trust. Surely enforced compulsion from Whitehall of this change cannot be the right way forward.

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

Ofsted data for the latest inspection results of all schools show that 350,000 children now study in sponsored academies rated good or outstanding. Let us look at the example of an academy in the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency. Langdon Academy, a special measures school in East Ham, opened as a fast-track sponsored academy on 1 January 2014. Over a year later, it has gone from 45% of pupils getting A* to C to 57%. Those are achievements that I want all young people to have access to.

Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay

Conversion to academies is improving the education of children throughout the country, and it is right that we make this opportunity available to all children. However, concerns have been expressed about the impact that this policy will have on small schools, particularly in a place such as Cornwall, where we have many small schools. Has my right hon. Friend considered that one of the ways of addressing those concerns would be to allow local authorities to be involved in the running of multi-academy trusts?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend will know that we published a White Paper in order to make sure that we talk to Members in all parts of the House, as well as to local authorities. Like my hon. Friend, I want all young people to have the best possible start in life. We know that academies make a difference. We also know that small schools can benefit from working together in clusters, including the 15 schools in Cornwall that converted to academies together as one group last week to provide mutual support. I look forward to continuing my conversations with my hon. Friend.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

Luton has the highest-performing schools in the eastern region of England and most of the town’s schools remain in local authority control. When will the Government undertake an objective analysis of why some schools do better than others, and accept that this has nothing to do with academy status?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

We know from the international evidence that the more autonomy those on the frontline have—heads, teachers and governors—the more they take responsibility for the results that are achieved. I want the good schools in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency to share their expertise with other schools that are not yet so good. That way we have a strong education system, which is what I as Secretary of State for Education and this Government want to be available for everyone.

Photo of Suella Fernandes Suella Fernandes Conservative, Fareham

In Fareham primary schools such as Hook with Warsash Church of England and St Anthony’s converted from maintained schools to academies and saw their results improve, surpassing the local authority average. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this policy represents an opportunity for Hampshire, which performs well as a local authority, to get involved and create a mass to enable more autonomy and improvement overall?

Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Education

My hon. Friend is right to say that we can see that the results in primary sponsored academies, for example, which have been open for two years have improved by an average of 10 percentage points, which is double the rate of improvement in local authority schools. She is right to say that there are many talented individuals working in Hampshire local authority and I hope they will take advantage of the new system as well.