Press release

Michael Gove: face reality, reform urgently

A press notice on Michael Gove's speech to headteachers at the National College for School Leadership.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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  • Record number of underperforming schools to become academies this year

  • Weakest primary schools to become academies

  • Minimum GCSE standards to rise from 35 per cent to 50 per cent

The Government today announced further action to help our school system become world class.

Speaking to headteachers at the National College for School Leadership, Michael Gove set out plans to raise standards and tackle underperforming schools. The key measures will include:

  • The Government will open more sponsored academies (turning around underperforming schools) this year than the last Government did in the first eight years of the programme and more than in any year of the history of the academy programme. 88 schools have already been identified and will open in the next academic year.
  • The weakest 200 primary schools in the country will become academies in 2012/13.
  • Local authorities with particularly large numbers of struggling primaries will be identified for urgent collaboration with the Department to tackle a further 500 primaries.
  • The current average performance will become the new ‘floor’ for secondaries - all schools should have at least 50 per cent of pupils getting five good GCSEs including English and Maths by 2015.

This ‘sponsored academy’ programme is in addition to the 1,200 schools that have already applied to convert to academy status (‘convertor academies’). The academy programme was previously focussed on underperforming secondary schools. This Government is now using academies to tackle weak primary schools as well. The rapid conversion of so many great schools to academies means there is now a larger pool of great schools to build chains and improve underperforming schools.

There are around 1,400 primary schools below the primary ‘minimum floor standard’ (less than 60 per cent of the children reaching a basic level in English and Maths at 11, and where children make below average progress between seven and 11) based on 2010 results. Of these, about 500 have been below the floor for two or three of the last four years. A further 200 have been below the floor for the last five years (120 of these roughly 200 have been below the floor for more than a decade).

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, said

We have just suffered the worst financial crisis since 1929. Our economy is weighed down by a huge debt burden. Europe has major problems with debt and the euro. Meanwhile there is a rapid and historic shift of political and economic power to Asia and a series of scientific and technological changes that are transforming our culture, economy and global politics. If we do not have a school system that is adapting to and preparing for these challenges - a school system that is not only adapting to the amazing revolution of iTunesU, whereby Harvard and Oxbridge publish their most valuable content free, but is also able to adapt to the unknown revolutions ahead - then we will face even worse crises in the years ahead.

The education debate in this country has not confronted reality. Education systems across the world are improving faster than England. We have to set our sights higher. We should no longer tolerate a system in which so many pupils leave primary school without a good grasp of English and maths, and leave secondary school without five good GCSEs. We want all parents to have a choice of good local schools.

Evidence shows that the academy programme has had a good effect on school standards. Heads and teachers should run schools and they should be more accountable to parents instead of politicians. We must go faster and further in using the programme to deal with underperforming schools.

Michael Gove addresses National College conference

The Education Secretary also confirmed that the minimum expected standard for secondary schools will rise over the course of this parliament. In 2004, a ‘floor standard’ for secondary performance was set at 20 per cent of pupils getting five A* to C GCSEs (English and Maths not included); in 2006, it rose to 25 per cent in 2007, it rose to 30 per cent getting five A* to C GCSEs including English and Maths. In 2010, the new Government raised it to 35 per cent getting five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths, combined with the majority of pupils making above average progress from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4.

The 35 per cent floor will increase. In 2012, it will rise to 40 per cent and by the end of the Parliament it will rise to 50 per cent. The current average across the system will become the new floor.

Notes to editors

  1. The May 2011 LSE report ‘Changing School Autonomy: Academy Schools and their Introduction to England’s Education’ showed not only that Academies raise standards in particular schools but also that they generate higher standards in surrounding schools.

  2. You can download a list of the 88 sponsored academies from the academies section of the Department for Education’s website.

  3. You can read the full transcript of Michael Gove’s speech from the announcements section.

  4. The floor standards includes both attainment and progression:
    • For secondaries - a school is below the floor if fewer than 35 per cent of pupils achieve the basics standard of five A* to C grade GCSEs inc English and maths - and if fewer pupils make good progress between KS2 and KS4 than the national average.
    • For primaries - a school will be below the floor if fewer than 60 per cent of pupils achieve the basics standard of level 4 in both English and maths - and fewer pupils than average make the expected levels of progress between KS1 and KS2.
  5. In the academic year 2010/11 the Coalition Government set up 71 sponsored academies. This was the largest amount created in any single academic year. However in 2011/12 there will be a record 88 sponsored academies. Between 2000 (when the Academies programme was first announced) and 2008 the last government managed to set up just 83 sponsored academies. Of the 88 sponsored academies due to open in the academic year 2011-12, 73 are secondary schools, 13 are primary schools and two are all through academies combining primary and secondary ages. In 2000, David Blunkett, the then Secretary of State for Education, announced the sponsored academies policy. The full timeline of sponsored academies is set out below:
Year of opening Number opening Total
Academic year 02/03 3 3
Academic year 03/04 9 12
Academic year 04/05 5 17
Academic year 05/06 10 27
Academic year 06/07 20 47
Academic year 07/08 36 83
Academic year 08/09 50 133
Academic year 09/10 70 203
Academic year 10/11 71 274
Academic year 11/12 88 362

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Published 16 June 2011