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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 July 2007, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
All universities 'to run academy'
Ed Balls in school
Ed Balls says universities can start academies without 2m
Universities are being urged to set up academies - with the government exempting them from having to pay 2m to become sponsors.

Ed Balls, the new Schools Secretary, used his inaugural speech to the House of Commons to call for an accelerated expansion of the academy programme.

Mr Balls also announced a review of primary maths - with individual tuition to help pupils who are falling behind.

Ofsted inspectors will also be told to get tough on poor behaviour.

The school secretary's speech to the House of Commons set out the priorities for the newly-created Children, Schools and Families department.

'Bank balance'

Mr Balls said he now wanted "every university to actively engage with academies" - the so-called independent state schools created by former prime minister, Tony Blair.

And he unveiled a list of nine universities which were to join the academy programme and announced financial incentives for more universities to follow.

Ed Balls visits a children's centre
Mr Balls announced a review of primary maths teaching

He also called for a greater emphasis on "personalised learning" in which the progress of individual pupils is monitored and supported by one-to-one tuition - with an additional 150m in funding.

And he repeated the prime minister's announcement last month that improving maths in primary schools should be at the top of the agenda.

"The next step is to raise our game in maths," said Mr Balls.

There will be a review of maths led by Sir Peter Williams, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, which will promote an Every Child Counts scheme to reduce the number of pupils leaving primary school without reaching the expected level in the subject.

On the expansion of the academy programme, Mr Balls announced a change of the sponsorship rules to make it easier for universities to set up academies.

"The test of whether an organisation can be a potential sponsor should not be its bank balance, but whether it can demonstrate leadership, innovation, and commitment to act in the public interest," said Mr Balls.

As such, the requirement for businesses to provide 2m to become a sponsor would not apply to universities, colleges and other successful schools.

'Standards, not structures'

Mr Balls also emphasised the need for improved behaviour in the classroom - with Ofsted to issue "strong new guidance to inspectors which will make clear that behaviour by pupils that has a negative impact on learning is unacceptable".

There was also an additional 265m announced for extended schools to provide after-school services, particularly for less well-off families.

In terms of the tone and direction of the newly-installed schools secretary, Mr Balls used a term that had been associated with the former prime minister, Tony Blair.

"Our priority must be standards, not structures."

In reply, the Shadow Schools Secretary, Michael Gove, said the announcement "prompts an inevitable question, why after 10 years of a prime minister who promised a relentless focus on education, education, education is such an ambitious agenda still required?".

Head teachers' leader, John Dunford, said that the plans to improve classroom behaviour would also require support from parents.

"Parents are often too quick to accept their child's side of the story and to complain when the head takes strong action," said Dr Dunford of the Association of School and College Leaders.

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