Funding boost for heads to help weak schools in England

Education Secretary Michael Gove Mr Gove says England has "one of the most unequal education systems in the world"

Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to more than double the number of top head teachers helping struggling schools in England.

The number of National Leaders of Education would rise from 393 to 1,000 by 2014, the government said.

The role of such heads will also be strengthened, with new incentives for improvements in performance, it said.

Mr Gove recently said he was ready to force weak schools to become academies, run by sponsors of strong schools.

Speaking at a conference at the National College, Mr Gove said the government would "invest in recruiting more great heads to turn round our weaker schools and extend the academy model so more strong schools can help weaker schools".

Funding for the Leaders in Education programme is to rise from £4.2m in 2010-11 to £7.2m by 2014, the government said.

'Superb heads'

Academies are schools operating outside local authority control with more freedom to set their budgets and curriculum than other state schools.

Start Quote

"I think the model of working with schools to help each other is exactly the right one - but I don't think models which compel schools to collaborate generate the effect that we would want"”

End Quote Russell Hobby, National Association of Head Teachers

"There are many superb heads in our state system doing a wonderful job, but there are also many schools which are still not giving children the start in life they deserve," said Mr Gove.

"We still have one of the most unequal education systems in the world and half of young people leave school without the basic qualifications you need to succeed," he said.

Mr Gove has pushed for the creation of more academies.

But while under Labour the programme was used primarily to target schools in disadvantaged areas, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition's initial emphasis has been on allowing schools rated "outstanding" by Ofsted to convert to academy status.

However, earlier this month, Mr Gove said that he wanted underperforming schools to become academies, run by sponsors of successful schools.

He said he would be ready to use powers under the Academies Act, passed in the summer, to force schools requiring significant improvement to become academies.

Right model

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said he believed National Leaders of Education were "a really good thing".

"I think the model of working with schools to help each other is exactly the right one - but I don't think models which compel schools to collaborate generate the effect that we would want."

He said that before the leadership of a school was changed, or the school pushed towards becoming an academy, it should be ensured that the school has received "the best support it can get" from external experts.

The education watchdog Ofsted says there are 75 schools which have been in special measures for more than a year.

In the run-up to the election, the Conservatives promised that such schools - which had not shown signs of improving - would be turned into academies by September 2011.

The party pledged to identify the "very worst schools - the sink schools which have desperately failed their children - and put them rapidly into the hands of heads with a proven track record of success".

Teachers' unions have been critical of the process of schools becoming free-standing academies - arguing that it will weaken their local accountability.

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