Not enough evidence on academies
Education Secretary Michael Gove believes too many schools in Leicester are under-performing. In his view, the answer is to turn them into academies – state-funded schools independent of the local education authority with more autonomy over how they are run. However, Mr Gove says the city council has been a barrier to progress by failing to pursue this "solution" for its under-performing schools.
Yesterday, he put more pressure on the council by announcing he was writing to Leicester's MPs urging them to persuade the council and schools to take "a more constructive position."
The city council's view is that there is no evidence that converting schools to academies improves performance. It would say, rightly so, that there has been considerable progress in Leicester's schools over the past few years without going down this route.
Mr Gove, however, says the evidence on academies is clear; that they have successfully taken over failing schools and that their improvement rate outstrips the national average.
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"There is a wealth of evidence both from pupil performance and independent reports that shows the academy model is working," he says in his letter to the city's MPs.
And he refers to Labour peer Lord Adonis's argument in favour of academies in his book Education, Education, Education: Reforming England's Schools. Mr Gove says: "Lord Adonis is unequivocal that every under-performing primary and secondary school should be replaced by a sponsored academy."
So who is right? There have been two studies nationally which conclude tentatively that there is some evidence of academies improving at a faster rate than other schools. However, the evidence is debatable.
What is desperately needed on this subject is more clarity. All that parents want for their children is what works best. At the moment there are two diametrically opposed viewpoints on whether or not that means academy schools, and that situation is not helpful.
In his letter, Mr Gove writes as if the argument in favour of academies has been established. We do not think this is the case however. In our view he should provide more information and evidence to support that contention before bludgeoning Leicester's schools down this route.