I appreciate the concerns that have been raised with me about academies. I am looking closely at the situation and listening to all comments and suggestions from all interested parties, both locally and nationally.
The main concern that was put to me was a fear that academisation would adversely affect our local schools, especially the more rural ones. Taking on board the issues raised, I met with the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, to seek greater clarification. I have received assurances that she appreciates your comments and that Ministers will do their utmost to protect small schools in rural areas. In addition to the statutory presumption against the closure of rural schools, where schools are converting to academy status, the Government will introduce a dual lock to ensure that both local and national Government will have to agree to a school closing before a decision can be made. A £10 million dedicated support fund will also be established to enable rural primary schools to secure expert advice and support as they transition to an academy.
As academisation is a clear vehicle to allow schools and leaders to raise standards and transform young people’s life chances, the Government maintains its belief that all schools should transition to academy status by 2022. In this respect however, I am pleased that the Secretary of Stater and her Department listened to the concerns I raised from some people in Taunton Deane so that no legalisation to issue academy orders will be created.
Now, only schools within a local authority area will be required to convert if the local authority is unable to provide viable support to the remaining schools or where a schools is failing to meet a minimum performance threshold, and potentially harming the life chances and future of their children.
By freeing leaders and teachers, academisation raises standards, fosters aspiration and ensures progress. Over the last six years, the Education Secretary's reforms have borne fruit: there are now 1.4 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. Furthermore, 2015 GCSE results show that secondary converter academies are performing 7.2 percentage points above the national average, with 64.3 per cent of pupils achieving five or more good GCSEs, including English and Maths.
I hope this makes clear that both I and the Secretary of State are listening and that the Government’s reforms seek to provide our children with the education they deserve.