Failing schools in Staffordshire are in talks to opt out

Failing primary schools in Staffordshire are in talks with government officials who want to take them out of county council control, it emerged today.

The Department for Education has approached schools in special measures to discuss severing ties with the local authority and becoming academies. Twenty primaries in Staffordshire are rated inadequate by Ofsted and Education Secretary Michael Gove is demanding “performance improves rapidly and on a sustainable basis”.

If all the failing primary schools agree to become academies, it would triple the number in the county.

Mr Gove today criticised Staffordshire County Council for refusing to embrace the academy programme.

Under the scheme, schools are given freedom from council control and allowed to set their own curriculum.

Just 10 out of 254 primary schools are academies, most of which decided to apply for the status after being rated Outstanding by inspectors.

Mr Gove said: “There is a wealth of evidence both from pupil performance and independent reports that shows the academy model is working.

“Unfortunately this transformative drive has not taken root in Staffordshire where too many schools continue to under-perform.

“One of the main barriers to progress has been that until recently the council has not actively pursued academy solutions for its under-performing schools.

“Department for Education officials are visiting a number of schools in special measures with the local authority this term to pursue academy solutions.

“These visits are part of a discussion about the best way forward to ensure that performance improves rapidly and on a sustainable basis.”

County councillor Ian Parry, responsible for eduction, said: “We welcome the move to academies, and we would encourage schools to take this route.

“However, we are not in a position to force them to do this. It is a governing body decision.”