Schools commissioner in Lancashire academy warning

Dr Liz Sidwell Dr Liz Sidwell said academies raised standards

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Thirty-two Lancashire primary schools could have to become academies unless they improve, the schools commissioner has said.

Dr Liz Sidwell was speaking ahead of a visit to the successful Hambleton Primary Academy on Thursday.

Analysis

The subject of academies has already been a hot topic in Lancashire.

Today's visit of the school's commissioner comes on the day that teachers at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School are on strike in protest at the plans to turn it into an academy.

The National Union of Teachers in Lancashire is already running a campaign opposing the very idea which was established under the last Labour government but has been strongly pursued by the coalition government.

The language used by the Department of Education in announcing today's visit of the commissioner is quite stark, warning primary schools of the need to improve.

The wording could be seen as something of a threat, even though from the government's point of view such a change would be a good thing.

Leading councillors said they were disappointed with Dr Sidwell's views.

The visit comes as teachers at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar are on strike in protest at plans to turn it into an academy.

Staff at the East Lancashire high school said their opposition and that of parents was being ignored.

'Distorts position'

Schools that become academies are taken out of local authority control and run by other education groups.

Dr Sidwell said 32 schools were under-achieving, meaning the county had the most under-performing primary schools in the North West.

She is concerned that a third of pupils leaving primary school are below the standard expected in reading, writing and maths.

"As a head teacher who took over failing schools and helped them become academies, I strongly believe this is the best way to raise education standards for children right across Lancashire," said Dr Sidwell.

County councillor Geoff Driver (Conservative) said: "I am surprised and disappointed that the Department for Education have chosen to make an announcement in this way, because not only does it seriously distort the position in Lancashire, but also there is a danger it undermines all the very good work done by our dedicated teachers and, most of all, by the children themselves."

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