Stoke & Staffordshire

Staffordshire primary schools 'failing pupils'

Too many primary schools in Staffordshire are "failing", according to the Department for Education (DfE).

Education Secretary Michael Gove has written to MPs in the county to highlight standards, saying "urgent action" was needed.

In Staffordshire 20 primaries are currently rated inadequate by Ofsted.

Staffordshire County Council said the overwhelming majority of its 254 primary schools were performing well and were "improving".

Ian Parry, responsible for education at the local authority, said the letter was simply an "indirect way for the secretary of state saying more schools in Staffordshire should become academies".

He said the responsibility for standards lay directly with schools and their governing bodies and they would be the ones to take any decision on whether to become academies.

Mr Parry said he was "totally in favour" of the academy programme but could "not force" schools to convert.

'Drive performance'

In his letter to MPs, Mr Gove wrote: "The system is failing successive cohorts of pupils in Staffordshire.

"Without urgent and decisive action they will continue to be failed."

Staffordshire primary schools are more than twice as likely to be in the lowest Ofsted categories as the England average (7%, compared with 3%), according to the DfE.

Mr Gove used the letter to ask MPs to urge every underperforming school and the local authority to consider academy status.

The DfE said becoming an academy was the "best way to drive school performance".

Academies are funded directly from government and are not under the control of local authorities. As such they have more freedom over their budget, curriculum and many other areas.

Mr Gove said Staffordshire County Council's "preferred" approach to encourage federations and partnerships between schools was "unlikely" to lead to the "sustainable solution" needed at the worst-performing schools.

The council said its Key Stage 2 exam results had shown year-on-year improvements over the past four years and were now in line with the national average.

It said underperforming schools were "robustly monitored" and its support to them had been praised as "excellent" by Ofsted.

Teaching unions have held strikes against converting to academy status, saying the process fractures the state education system and opens the door to privatisation. Critics have also said the ability of local councils to provide support services for schools would be weakened by the loss of money being used to fund academies.

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