Michael Gove's academy plan under fire as scale of demand emerges

Only 153 schools apply to become academies – despite education secretary's claims that more than 1,000 had done so

gove
Michael Gove had said that the scale of demand for academies required the government to rush through legislation. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Michael Gove, the education secretary, faced renewed attacks today when it emerged that only 153 schools had applied to become academies – despite his claims that more than 1,000 had done so.

Gove had said that the scale of demand from schools to escape town hall control required the government to rush legislation through parliament before this week's summer recess.

It now seems likely that no new academies will be formed in time for the autumn term as a result of the scheme.

The shadow education secretary, Ed Balls, accused Gove of "railroading" the legislation through parliament, and demanded that he explain why he "misleadingly claimed that more than 1,000 schools had applied". Balls, a contender for the Labour leadership, added: "It seems to me that the real reason for the rush was to avoid proper scrutiny for a deeply flawed piece of legislation."

Gove is already under attack from MPs, teachers and councils for a bungled announcement over whether hundreds of schools' plans for new buildings would go ahead.

He was forced to apologise in the Commons earlier this month after his office ignored advice to check an error-strewn list of cancelled building projects before it was published. The list suggested that many school building programmes would go ahead that had in fact been cancelled.

In relation to the academies, the department issued a press release on 2 June quoting Gove as saying: "The response has been overwhelming. In just one week, over 1,100 schools have applied." He added: "Of these, 626 are outstanding schools, including over 250 primary schools, nearly 300 secondary schools (over half of all the outstanding secondary schools in the country) and over 50 special schools."

Outstanding schools are to be fast-tracked to academy status.

A fortnight ago, the Department for Education revealed a second list of 1,907 primary, secondary and special schools that had registered an interest in turning into academies. Gove has written to every school inviting them to apply.

The new, far lower, number of schools that have applied may largely stem from the fact that Gove misdescribed expressions of general interest in the scheme as an actual application.

The lower-than-expected demand also questions why he needed to use emergency parliamentary procedures to rush through legislation this week. The academies bill, which became law on Tuesday, allows hundreds more schools to opt out of local authority control and turn into academies. The bill was pushed through the Commons in less than three days.

Balls said the emergency procedures were unnecessary given that only 153 schools had applied. He said Gove "railroaded" the bill through "because he said hundreds of schools wanted to become academies ... and many wanted to open [as such] in September. Now barely 10% of that number have even applied for academy status and none of them will convert in September."

It may be too early to say whether the level of demand to become academy schools is truly much lower than Gove had envisaged, but it would be a serious blow to the government's whole public service reform programme if it emerges that his revolution does not have the support in schools that he claimed.

Supporters of the scheme argue that school governing bodies are going to need time to weigh up the advantages of academy status, as well as see how some of the new schools perform. But the preliminary figures suggest that Gove's reforms have not sparked an instant nationwide revolution.

During the parliamentary passage of his legislation, Gove agreed to allow greater local consultation than planned before a school could take academy status.

The list of 153 schools includes about 45 primary schools, at least 12 faith schools and more than 20 grammar schools.

Gove has said he hopes – and expects – that academies will be the norm among secondary schools by the end of a first term in government. He told the Today programme earlier this month that "hundreds of schools are anxious to take advantage of these proposals".

Teachers' leaders condemned the government tonight for acting too hastily over academies.

"Our education system is too important to be subject to acting in haste, but repenting at leisure," said Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

"We remain concerned that many of the schools which have applied won't have carried out any form of consultation. Democracy will not be well served if children, parents and staff first learn of their school's plans to become an academy from the media."

She added that it would be "interesting to see if the list of schools applying to become an academy is as accurate, or not" as the error-ridden list that informed schools whether their building projects were to be scrapped.

Academies, unlike other state schools, have total freedom over their budgets, the curriculum and the length of the school day and term. They can also decide teachers' pay. Their expansion is thought to be the biggest change to school structures since grammar and secondary moderns were encouraged to become comprehensives in the 1960s.

Under Labour, only failing schools were turned into academies. But the new government has said that schools rated outstanding will be allowed to quickly switch to academy status and have their applications pre-approved.


Your IP address will be logged

Comments in chronological order

Post a comment
  • This symbol indicates that that person is The Guardian's staffStaff
  • This symbol indicates that that person is a contributorContributor

Showing first 50 comments | Go to all comments | Go to latest comment

  • esked esked

    29 Jul 2010, 8:21PM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.
  • ArseneKnows ArseneKnows

    29 Jul 2010, 8:27PM

    The interesting thing that few seem to pick up on is that Academies are not required to carry out that other flagship policy from a previous Tory administration; the National Curriculum.

    Also notable is that 1 in 7 of those that have started the application process are Grammar Schools.

  • lierbag lierbag

    29 Jul 2010, 8:35PM

    'Goving': the practise of making supposedly factually-based assertions, but without actual reference to the facts at hand.

    'Goverup': the technique of revising previous inaccurate statements, by suggesting the initial 'factual' information has been misconstrued or misreported.

    'Government': Any administration containing a useless imbecile with delusions of adequacy.

  • spanows spanows

    29 Jul 2010, 8:42PM

    Michael Gove, the education secretary, faced renewed attacks today when it emerged that only 153 schools had applied to become academies – despite his claims that more than 1,000 had done so.

    Did he claim over 1000 had applied to BECOME acadamies or did he claim that over a thousand had shown interest/asked for detilas/ ask how/what/why/ etc...

    I would have expected such info in the article but have found none. It would be upsetting if you were suggesting that Gove lied, as you appear to be suggesting...are you suggesting that?

  • lestersyoung lestersyoung

    29 Jul 2010, 8:47PM

    @spanows

    In relation to the academies, the department issued a press release on 2 June quoting Gove as saying: "The response has been overwhelming. In just one week, over 1,100 schools have applied." He added: "Of these, 626 are outstanding schools, including over 250 primary schools, nearly 300 secondary schools (over half of all the outstanding secondary schools in the country) and over 50 special schools."

  • Tiel Tiel

    29 Jul 2010, 8:53PM

    @spanows

    From this page of the dfe website--news section:
    The Headline: "Over 1000 schools apply for academy freedoms"
    And in the story: "Total number of schools who have applied for academy freedoms: 1114"
    So yes, the DFE did claim this, and it was a lie.
    Pretty conclusive. What say you?

  • spanows spanows

    29 Jul 2010, 8:55PM

    @lestersyoung

    In relation to the academies, the department issued a press release on 2 June quoting Gove as saying: "The response has been overwhelming. In just one week, over 1,100 schools have applied." He added: "Of these, 626 are outstanding schools, including over 250 primary schools, nearly 300 secondary schools (over half of all the outstanding secondary schools in the country) and over 50 special schools."

    "Have applied..."

    For the info pack?
    For more info?
    For the cost?
    For a cheese sandwich?

  • Salfordmatt Salfordmatt

    29 Jul 2010, 8:55PM

    Obviously it's helpful to release the list a week into the school holidays, giving parents with any concerns (real or not) a clear 6 weeks to discuss the matter with heads and governors .... then again, they could contact their MPs ... who have also gone on holiday....hmmm, now I understand what the rush was to get the legislation through

  • spanows spanows

    29 Jul 2010, 8:57PM

    @Tiel

    From this page of the dfe website--news section:
    The Headline: "Over 1000 schools apply for academy freedoms"
    And in the story: "Total number of schools who have applied for academy freedoms: 1114"
    So yes, the DFE did claim this, and it was a lie.
    Pretty conclusive. What say you?

    Nope...from the FIRST PARAGRAPH of your link:

    "The Secretary of State has outlined the number of schools which have shown an interest in becoming academies following the DfE announcement of the intention to expand the programme."

    Now...read that carefully.

  • spanows spanows

    29 Jul 2010, 9:01PM

    @ArseneKnows

    Every time he has opened his mouth since he worked with Policy Exchange would be my guess.

    Well he's a politician so your guess probably isn't too far out. :-/

  • lestersyoung lestersyoung

    29 Jul 2010, 9:02PM

    @spanows

    "Have applied..."

    For the info pack?
    For more info?
    For the cost?
    For a cheese sandwich?

    C'mon, I think that's stretching it a bit...It may not have been intentional, but the implication is clear to me. I'm sure most people would agree.

  • Marcella Marcella

    29 Jul 2010, 9:02PM

    Nearly 70% of secondary schools rated as outstanding have now expressed interest in becoming an academy, the education secretary, Michael Gove, revealed today

    17th June 2010

    Look Spanows I put up with some real shit from you and others who were baying for the end of Brown and NewLabour.

    You got what you wanted and now look at the mess they are creating.

    Cameron and his mega mouth diplomacy and carelessness with the facts.

    Osborne and his hatchet job on anything that remotely smacks of "public" provision.

    Gove and his wretched "free schools" mission which he is pursuing with Messianic fervour (and look where that gets us!)

    That idiot who's name escapes me who says we should just get offenders to say sorry.

    Volunteer Police spending the shift with the few police we will have left

    "Voluntary National Service"

    Prison doesn't work! (er just run that past me again, aren't you a Tory?)

    GPs who can't even get a repeat prescription right every two months being put in control of 80 billion quids worth of healthcare.

    The Big Society my arse.

    Just don't even try to convince me that this shower are anything but weak, inexperienced ideologues who are drunk on power and are relishing the task of dismembering our public services with indecent haste.

    Emergency legislation used for 153 schools, that's just plain wrong.

    Just don't even try.

  • kykcrzy kykcrzy

    29 Jul 2010, 9:02PM

    The incredible thing is that somebody actually voted for the guy. If you want a government of imbeciles all you have to do is vote for them.... enjoy!

  • ispy ispy

    29 Jul 2010, 9:03PM

    It all comes down that Gove is a "DICKHEAD" and the Britishh Public need a wake up call before this joker screws everything up for years to come.

  • Tiel Tiel

    29 Jul 2010, 9:03PM

    @spanows.
    I did read that. Do you not think the headline and statement were intended to mislead, or are they very sloppy with language?
    It's ok to back down, defending the indefensible would be silly. On this occasion there was an attempt to mislead.
    Unfortunate things keep happening to Gove.

    The bigger story, to my mind, is the lack of a rush to apply. It's just not what the vast majority of schools I know want, nor is it democratic as parents get no say, and the process appears to be irreversible if a govening body changes it's mind.
    Idealogically driven, poorly implemented policy that panders to the prejudice of the few.

  • Skinz Skinz

    29 Jul 2010, 9:08PM

    "The Secretary of State has outlined the number of schools which have shown an interest in becoming academies following the DfE announcement of the intention to expand the programme."

    Can't "shown an interest" also mean 'applied?

    We are arguing over semantics though. What is very clear is that Gove isn't above spin and deception to try and get his way - he just isn't very good at it though and keeps getting caught out.

  • gwaddilove gwaddilove

    29 Jul 2010, 9:09PM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.
  • spanows spanows

    29 Jul 2010, 9:10PM

    @Tiel

    I did read that. Do you not think the headline and statement were intended to mislead, or are they very sloppy with language?

    It isn't sloppy, it is journalists writing what they want to write knowing it is wrong and readers lapping it up.

    It's ok to back down, defending the indefensible would be silly. On this occasion there was an attempt to mislead.

    Well done, not many would back down as you just have. ;-)
    There is no attempt to midlead. The facts are the facts.

    Unfortunate things keep happening to Gove.

    Indeed they do, the interesting thing is can you name one of his own making?

    The bigger story, to my mind, is the lack of a rush to apply. It's just not what the vast majority of schools I know want, nor is it democratic as parents get no say, and the process appears to be irreversible if a govening body changes it's mind.
    Idealogically driven, poorly implemented policy that panders to the prejudice of the few.

    Well I don't disagree, it is ridiculous to have new and major educational reform and to then try to bulldoze it thriugh for the start of the new school year when that is only a few months from the election.

  • Tiel Tiel

    29 Jul 2010, 9:10PM

    For context.

    There are roughly 20,000 schools in England.

    153 is 0.77% of that figure (generously rounded up)
    Even if you allow that around 10% of schools are outstanding that still means that only 7.7% of pre-approved schools have applied. Not a resounding endorsement.
    Not suprised, schools are not under local Authoruty 'control' at the moment. Heads run their own schools, and access support services from their Local Authorities.

  • bathcityfc bathcityfc

    29 Jul 2010, 9:12PM

    Gove had said that the scale of demand from schools to escape town hall control required the government to rush legislation through parliament before this week's summer recess.

    What is now clear is that the demand to escape crap local authorities is not evenly spread. It is highest in particular Tory led areas, such as Essex, where the Conservatives have had power in Parliament and locally for decades.

    This helps me understand what so many Tory MPs were saying about education during the Acadamies debate. It is interesting that what they were in fact airing was their own dirty washing and admitting their own failures.

  • Tiel Tiel

    29 Jul 2010, 9:16PM

    @Spanows.
    I will try to be reasonable.
    I concede that I failed to quote the bit that mixed the message.
    However, this is not about journalists writing anything.
    The headline and statement I cited which stated schools had applied were written for, and published by, the DFE itself.
    Gove has stated on occasions that over 1000 schools had applied.
    All you have to do to count in that statistic is literally ask the dfe to send you information. If I was a head it is highly unlikely I would become an academy, but I would consider it remiss not to ask for the full details.

  • bathcityfc bathcityfc

    29 Jul 2010, 9:19PM

    gwaddilove
    29 Jul 2010, 9:09PM

    At least Gove isn't a Hypocritical , Lying, Warmongering ,New Labour Scumbag Spiv!

    Well, he isn't exactly New Labour - though he does claim to be the 'heir to Blair' with respect to academies.

    The rest of the list I can accept. Thank you.

  • bathcityfc bathcityfc

    29 Jul 2010, 9:21PM

    spanows

    Well I don't disagree, it is ridiculous to have new and major educational reform and to then try to bulldoze it thriugh for the start of the new school year when that is only a few months from the election.

    OMG!!! I think I'm going to faint.

    Maybe it's Broon and Nulbaour to blame - come on spanows I'm worried about you

  • Ashurstman Ashurstman

    29 Jul 2010, 9:22PM

    spanows
    It's different being on the defensive isn't it. this is the Government you wanted and look at it.
    you said "the interesting thing is can you name one of his own making?"
    How about this mess. If he hadn't rushed it through and then tried to spin - yes his Department did the spin - it he would not be open to all this criticism.
    His problem is people - like you perhaps - who wanted him to change the "world" overnight. well education deserves better than quick fixes and he should go.

  • spanows spanows

    29 Jul 2010, 9:23PM

    @Marcella

    Nearly 70% of secondary schools rated as outstanding have now expressed interest in becoming an academy, the education secretary, Michael Gove, revealed today

    17th June 2010

    Look Spanows I put up with some real shit from you and others who were baying for the end of Brown and NewLabour.

    Wasn't really shit though, was it?

    You got what you wanted and now look at the mess they are creating.

    No, I didn't get what I wanted: what I wanted was almost impossible. "The mess" is made, the clean-up has begun.

    Cameron and his mega mouth diplomacy and carelessness with the facts.

    The '1940' was upsetting but I think a simple slip of the tongue. Insert "the 1940s".

    Osborne and his hatchet job on anything that remotely smacks of "public" provision.

    So far most of it is exactly what Darling had pencilled in...wait for the October spending review and the real shite will satrt to fly. Then we can deabte it.

    Gove and his wretched "free schools" mission which he is pursuing with Messianic fervour (and look where that gets us!)

    Not very far it seems...

    That idiot who's name escapes me who says we should just get offenders to say sorry.

    "That idiot" will suffice.

    "Voluntary National Service"

    Not sure...why not just sign up with the armed forces?

    Prison doesn't work! (er just run that past me again, aren't you a Tory?)

    As new to labour as a tory could get I suppose.

    GPs who can't even get a repeat prescription right every two months being put in control of 80 billion quids worth of healthcare.

    I wish GPs would just be doctors.

    The Big Society my arse.

    Try squats.

    Just don't even try to convince me that this shower are anything but weak, inexperienced ideologues who are drunk on power and are relishing the task of dismembering our public services with indecent haste.

    Some do appear weak; that is an unfortunate and dare I say "normal" characteristic of coalitions. Inexperienced...yes. Ideaogues...some. Drunk on power? I would say quite the opposite. Dismembebering no, trimming yes.

    Emergency legislation used for 153 schools, that's just plain wrong.

    It does seem wrong.

  • Ooze Ooze

    29 Jul 2010, 9:23PM

    I am not too clever with this CiF business. Please, anyone know how to make Spannows font disappear?

    Even thick rich kids know Michael Gove was trying to mislead. I advise you to quit whilst you are merely fooled because when the Sh*t hits the fan(which it inevitably will with this Conservative-LibDem govt.), you wont be able to comment on this site with any credibility.

  • Tobemon Tobemon

    29 Jul 2010, 9:24PM

    This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.
  • Bluejil Bluejil

    29 Jul 2010, 9:25PM

    The responsible thing to do at this point is for someone to remove Gove from his seat of power and the destruction of education, it's bad now, it's only going to get worse. Couldn't have dreamed this one up if we tried.

    It is no surprise that schools are not jumping all over this, I think for those struggling schools they may be taking the sensible approach of 'wait and see'. It really is a choice between two evils, continue on or take a chance at something that may not work and wreak more havoc on our students.

    This is a very sad state of affairs, our new Tory government should be responsible and accountable to the people, replace Gove now.

  • actonblue actonblue

    29 Jul 2010, 9:28PM

    Michael Gove what a man? He is not very good at sums not very good at reading reports and not very good at parliamentary procedure.
    But he is a posh boy that is well connected so he should go far.

    All is well and good in the world of education now that Govey has taken the reigns. The futures bright the futures a bit uncertain.

  • Ashurstman Ashurstman

    29 Jul 2010, 9:32PM

    spanows
    Hate to add to your misery or sense of persecution BUT
    I wish GPs would just be doctors.
    Shame your government wants them to be managers. However, as they want government to do sweet "francis adams" it is inevitable that people who do a good job as doctors/teachers etc will end up managing themselves which is NOT what they may be good at. Still the cockups wont be Dave or Nicks fault so that's OK.

  • spanows spanows

    29 Jul 2010, 9:35PM

    @lestersyoung

    C'mon, I think that's stretching it a bit...It may not have been intentional, but the implication is clear to me. I'm sure most people would agree.

    As is the implication of the sub-headline of this article. I expect they'll cahnge it when they realise the implications.

    @Skinz

    We are arguing over semantics though. What is very clear is that Gove isn't above spin and deception to try and get his way - he just isn't very good at it though and keeps getting caught out.

    Or he trusts his team and keeps getting shafted by them. No excuse though, it's his responsibility.

    @Tiel

    I will try to be reasonable.
    I concede that I failed to quote the bit that mixed the message.
    However, this is not about journalists writing anything.
    The headline and statement I cited which stated schools had applied were written for, and published by, the DFE itself.
    Gove has stated on occasions that over 1000 schools had applied.

    Please do...try to be reasonable; I think you are. The info is there in black and white. Spin is spin. Both ways.

    All you have to do to count in that statistic is literally ask the dfe to send you information. If I was a head it is highly unlikely I would become an academy, but I would consider it remiss not to ask for the full details.

    Which begs the question why so few...the 1100 was apparently "in the first week" so does that mean the 153 is also "in the first week". More info would be nice.

  • Ashurstman Ashurstman

    29 Jul 2010, 9:39PM

    spanows
    Which begs the question why so few
    Maybe because it is not a good idea. This model of local government(aka "town halls") telling schools what to do went out of the window a few years ago. So frankly acadamies or this "child" of acadenies are not necessary. maybe that's why so few!

  • HertfordAnnoyed HertfordAnnoyed

    29 Jul 2010, 9:40PM

    Forget this idea of Gove creating a two-tier education system. He is actually creating a FOUR-tier system:
    Private schools
    Academies (basically state sponsored private schools)
    Free schools
    "Bog standard" comprehensives.
    Once the other three have creamed off the best and brightest (staff and students), who do we think will fill up the bog standard schools? It is no coincidence that the other three cater almost exclusively for the upper and middle classes. The tories need to keep an "under class" population, to do all the dirty jobs the upper classes don't want to do. This is the most dangerous and ridiculous piece of social engineering seen in generations - far worse than anything labour did in their poor 13 years in power.

Showing first 50 comments | Go to all comments | Go to latest comment

In order to post a comment you need to be registered and signed in.

|

Comments

Sorry, commenting is not available at this time. Please try again later.

Browse all jobs

jobs by Indeed

Section classified

Free P&P at the Guardian bookshop