Academy fear for borough’s ailing schools

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Troubled schools in the borough could be ordering to become academies from today, union leaders have warned.

They fear the new rules mean schools rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’ will be forced to make the controversial change.

Four schools in Wigan are currently rated as ‘requiring improvement’ - The Deanery, St Mary’s Catholic High, Hindley High and Abraham Guest, which received its latest rating last week.

However, a Government spokesman insisted only schools ranked as ‘inadequate’ will eligible.

Chris Keates, the NASUWT general secretary, has written to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan stating she is “concerned” that “there may apparently be plans in place” for regional schools commissioners to issue academy orders.

This would be for schools in what is described as the “bottom two Ofsted categories,” according to the letter.

Ms Keates wants clarification that schools deemed as needing improvement will not be forced to become academies as well as those in the bottom inadequate category.

In his recent Budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to turn every state school into an academy by 2022.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is nonsense to suggest that schools in the bottom two Ofsted categories will be receiving academy orders from Monday. This is simply a new law coming into effect next week, which schools have been made fully aware of, meaning that any maintained schools rated inadequate by Ofsted will have to become a sponsored academy. We make no apology for wanting to create education excellence everywhere, and having academy status and the support of a strong sponsor.”

The Government intends to turn 16,800 schools into academies by the end of this parliament. Those that have not converted must have plans in place to do so by 2022.

The reform is part of a new education White Paper.

The prospect of industrial action over the plans edged closer last week as ATL, one of the more moderate teaching unions, overwhelmingly rejected the proposals to strip state primaries in England from local authority control.

The ATL joined both the NUT and NASUWT unions in opposing the academisation plans in the Government’s Educational Excellence Everywhere White Paper.