Education Secretary Michael Gove asks Leicester's MPs to back his academy plans
Education Secretary Michael Gove has written to Leicester's MPs asking them to support plans to turn under-performing primary schools into academies.
In a speech yesterday, Mr Gove said there were a number of communities where "local forces of conservatism" had worked against reform.
He said he was starting to address this by writing to MPs in Leicester and Derby, where too many primaries had been judged unsatisfactory by Ofsted.
Mr Gove said: "I want to invite MPs in those communities to work with me to open up the education system in their areas to the new providers who can raise standards."
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Academies are semi-independent state schools which receive funding directly and have more powers over areas such as the curriculum and staff pay.
Last year, Mr Gove said the Government planned to turn 200 of the worst primaries in England – seven of them in Leicester – into academies.
Under-performing schools are those where under 60 per cent of pupils are reaching level four – the expected standard for the age group – in reading, writing and maths.
So far, only Queensmead Community Primary, in Braunstone, has made the decision to convert to an academy.
It will make the move on November 1, with the help of sponsor Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust, a not-for-profit charity.
However, provisional Sats results for 11-year-olds at Beaumont Lodge and Heatherbrook primaries, in Beaumont Leys, Rushey Mead Primary and Northfield House, in Northfields, reveal they have not made the Government's benchmark.
Mr Gove's letter to MPs said there was strong evidence that sponsored academies have "transformed the lives of children" by raising standards.
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he was surprised Mr Gove had chosen to write to the city's MPs and not him.
He said: "There's no evidence to show academies help schools achieve better results.
"The overwhelming majority of our schools have made it clear they want to remain part of a family under the local authority."
Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth and Leicester West MP Liz Kendall were unavailable for comment, but Leicester East MP Keith Vaz said he was happy to meet Mr Gove to discuss his proposals.
He said: "Leicester schools have strengthened enormously in the past five years."
Four city primaries are judged inadequate by Ofsted: Avenue Primary, in Clarendon Park; Braunstone Frith Juniors and Queensmead Primary, in Braunstone; and Merrydale Junior, in Humberstone.