The Government today claimed turning struggling primary schools into academies – including nine in Bradford – has turned around “stubborn under-performers”.
But Coun Ralph Berry, the executive member for children’s services on Labour-run Bradford Council, dismissed the claim as Government propaganda and insisted improvements at those schools had little to do with how they were governed.
The Government said its plan to improve school performance has exceeded early pledges and that nationally 400 struggling schools had been turned around in the past year by becoming academies, and 645 since 2010.
Of these, the Department for Education has singled out the success of Ryecroft Primary at Holme Wood.
The school was the first primary in Bradford to become an academy after being taken over by the Northern Education Trust in September 2012.
The DfE said that before this it was one of “the poorest in the country,” but that becoming an academy has turned its fortunes around.
The latest SAT results showed that 74 per cent of the school’s pupils achieved the expected level in maths, reading and writing in 2013, up 48 percentage points from pre-academy days.
The Government said figures show sponsored academies improved their performance by three percentage points, compared to an improvement in all schools of one percentage point.
As well as Ryecroft, the Northern Education Trust runs Merlin Top Primary in Keighley, while the Diocese of Bradford run St Philip’s, St Oswalds and Windhill CofE schools.
Navigate Academies Trust runs Reevy Hill Primary, Academies Enterprise Trust run Feversham Primary, the Schools Partnership Trust Academies runs Whetley Primary and Dixons Academy runs Bradford Moor Community Primary.
A DofE spokesman said: “The best way to turn around the stubborn under-performance that exists in some schools is to bring in a sponsor. These sponsors bring with them experience, leadership, know-how and a track record of success.”
But Coun Berry said: “Many of the schools the Government is saying have turned themselves around since becoming academies were on the way up anyway.
“Recent Ofsted reports have praised the quality of teaching. That is what helps, rather than how the school is run.
“Making schools become academies is a politically-driven agenda. They have pulled together the statistics they need to prove their point, and have glossed over the failures. We need to focus on improving teaching rather than spending all our time talking about how they are run.”
Ian Murch, Bradford spokesman for the National Union of Teachers, said: “Most of these schools have been bullied into becoming academies even though there is little desire from the community or staff to do so.
“There is no real evidence it improves results.”
HOW ACADEMIES WORK:
Before 2010 there were only 203 academies across the country, all of them secondary schools. There are now more than 3,500.
Under the Academies Act 2010, the Government can take poorly-performing schools out of local authority control and force them to become academies. This means that the school remains state-funded, but privately run in partnership with a sponsor, and no longer has to answer to the local education authority.
Sponsors are responsible for the performance and finances of their school, setting up the academy trust, selecting the governing body and recruiting the head teacher. Once a head teacher is appointed, sponsors work closely with them to run the academy.
Education Secretary Michael Gove argues that this freedom provides them with the ability to “innovate” and raise standards, as well as bringing in heads that have a track record of turning schools around.