Every school in England is to receive a written invitation from the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, to apply to become an academy. The move could see thousands of English schools opting out of local authority control and managing their own budgets.
Mr Gove told the Today programme that he did not want "to coerce anyone" to transform their school into an academy but he agreed that any school currently in Ofsted's "top tier" could become an academy "just like that".
"What I'd like to do is to ensure some of the radicalism that we used to have in education policy returns... It's about saying to heads, and boards of governors and teachers - it's up to you."
Rejecting the assertion that academies will leave poorer performing schools behind, Mr Gove promised to ensure that "when schools do become academies they don't exist in a parallel universe". He added that academies would be encouraged to team up with, and help, less successful schools.
Mr Gove promised to keep school league tables and vowed to slim down the curriculum, which he said is "too crowded and cluttered and too prescriptive".
He added that new schools would be encouraged to join the state sector but only after going through a process of due diligence to ensure that they have "a robust business plan and no dark agenda" of religious extremism.
Labour MP Ed Balls, Mr Gove's predecessor as Education Secretary, has criticised the academy plan. "The price for that will be paid by cancelling new school buildings, taking money, teachers away from existing schools, often in more disadvantaged communities," he told the BBC. "That's not only wasteful, I fear it will turn out to be deeply, deeply unfair."
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