Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 13:30 UK

Failing schools 'to be Academies'

Michael Gove
Mr Gove plans to "dramatically accelerate the number of Academies"

Failing schools in England would be shut down and reopened as Academies by 2011 under a Conservative government.

The worst performing schools would be identified within 100 days if the Tories won the next election, Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove said.

Mr Gove told the Tory Party conference all state schools would be able to opt for Academy status and free themselves from local authority control.

And technical schools would be created in cities to offer vocational subjects.

Mr Gove said these schools would provide what the economy "desperately needs now - thousands more proper, real-world apprenticeships".

The shadow secretary praised Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, London, for the work he has done in a challenging area.

He said Sir Michael's success provided a model he wished to see across the country.

Gary Eason
Gary Eason, education editor, BBC News website

Michael Gove's speech went down well with the Tory Party conference with its talk of tradition, discipline and rigour.

But he fell into a trap that tends to afflict education ministers.

He wants more schools to become Academies.

(As an aside, Mr Gove lauded Academies for having improved faster than other schools. Government ministers do the same.

But that is because their exam results were often poor to begin with - which is why they were made Academies. Schools with excellent results rarely make big improvements.... )

But what Mr Gove was most keen to stress was that Academies would have greater freedom to do what they wish.

Provided, that is, that this agreed with his view of things.

Because at the same time he made it clear he would be telling schools what they must teach.

He complained that hundreds had chosen not to enter children for A-level history, geography or the three sciences.

So would pupils be required to study those subjects?

And he promised the curriculum would include what he called "the proper narrative of British history".

It would be interesting to see who would be invited to write it.

"We will - in our first hundred days - identify the very worst schools, the sink schools which have desperately failed their children and put them rapidly into the hands of heads with a proven track record of success," Mr Gove said.

"We will remove the managements which have failed and replace them with people who know how to turn round schools, people like Sir Michael Wilshaw, heads who can impose discipline, improve teaching and rescue the children this system has betrayed.

"I will not allow another generation of our poorest children to have their future blighted by failing schools."

Schools rated as outstanding would be pre-approved for Academy status and eligible to become Academies immediately, he added.

Outstanding schools would also be exempt from Ofsted inspections, to allow inspectors to focus on failing schools.

The Ofsted framework would be "radically simplified" so that inspections focussed on teaching and learning.

Mr Gove said the Conservatives would cut back on bureaucracy and "reduce the intrusive regulation which holds back good teachers".

He attacked bureaucrats for "squandering" money and promised that quangos would be "cut down to size".

Gove on Tory plans for schools

Mr Gove said he wanted to see smaller classes and smaller schools "where the head teacher knows every child's name".

He praised schemes in Sweden, America and Canada, where parents have the option to send their children to independent state schools.

And he said the Tories would "change the laws - on planning, on funding, on staffing - to make it easier for new schools to be created in your neighbourhood".

He promised to help expand Teach First, a scheme which helps recruit the highest performing graduates into teaching.

"We'll develop a Troops to Teachers programme to get professionals in the Army who know how to train young men and women into the classroom, where they can provide not just discipline but inspiration and leadership," he added.


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Mr Gove also said children would have a "simple reading test" after two years at primary school "to make sure they are reading fluently".

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker accused Mr Gove of "ducking the difficult questions" on education.

He said: "He talked about raising standards in under-performing schools but parents will be disappointed that the plan he announced today would be less ambitious than our successful National Challenge programme.

"This new Tory policy would be focused on just 56 secondary schools in Ofsted special measures, while our National Challenge is uncompromising about raising standards through new investment and new leadership in the 270 schools still below our basic benchmark.

"He championed his Swedish model of school reform, but the Tories still haven't explained how they will pay for this free market experiment.

"They seem to think they can create hundreds if not thousands of schools with over 200,000 surplus places with no extra running costs."

Print Sponsor

Tory Swedish model for schools
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