More than 1,000 schools want to be academies

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

Image caption,
Michael Gove has invited schools to take academy status

More than 1,000 schools in England have shown interest in becoming an academy, says the education secretary.

Michael Gove told the House of Commons that 1,114 schools have responded to his letter last week inviting applications for independent status.

Among these are 626 schools rated as "outstanding", who will be fast-tracked to have academy status by this autumn.

The level of interest in becoming an academy is "overwhelming" , says Mr Gove.

These schools have registered an interest in becoming an academy - the next stage would be a formal application following a vote by the governing body.

They could become the first wave in the coalition government's aim for more schools to opt out of the local authority system and to have greater independence.

High achievers

These will be a different type of academy - drawn from among the most successful schools in their local areas, rather than the most challenged.

Academies under the Labour government were often used to improve standards in struggling schools.

Now this new intake of academies, which will quadruple the existing number, will be the highest achievers.

There will also now be primary academies, with 273 outstanding primary schools set to acquire academy status.

There are also 52 special schools graded as outstanding and wanting to become academies.

"I believe that head teachers and teachers know best how to run schools. Not local bureaucrats or politicians," said Mr Gove.

"That's why last week I wrote to every school in the country inviting them to take up academy freedoms if they wished to do so. The response has been overwhelming"

These schools will have greater control over their own finances and curriculum. As outstanding schools they will also be exempt from routine Ofsted inspections.

The government argues that such autonomy will increase innovation, raise standards and create a wider range of choices for parents.

Free schools

This expansion in academies will run alongside plans to encourage the creation of new schools, which will be run by outside providers, without local authority control.

These new schools, created under the free school policy, will also be known as academies.

Mr Gove made it clear earlier this week that he has no objection if companies managing such state-funded schools are profit-making.

Teachers' unions have criticised the rapid expansion of the number of academy schools as a threat to the state education system.

"These proposals are not about providing high quality education for all. They are purely political ideology and dogma. They are about the break-up of state education," said Chris Keates, head of the NASUWT teachers' union.

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