Academy programme extended to primary schools

By Ian Dunt

Gordon Brown rolled out the academies programme to primary schools today, in a key part of his general election campaign.

A new wave of education providers will be given the ‘kitemark’ allowing them to lead changes to schools through federations, trust schools and academies, with primary schools included in the programme for the first time.

The extension of the controversial programme, which allows the private sector into education, will be greeted by outrage from teachers’ unions, which have traditionally argued against the changes.

The announcement will came at a speech organised by Teach First at Woodberry Down School in Hackney.

“It is at primary school where we learn the basic skills on which we will depend not just at secondary school – but at every stage of life,” Mr Brown said.

“If a primary school is not continually striving to improve; if it’s not dedicated completely and utterly to developing the full potential of every child that comes through it’s gates – it is holding back our children at one of the most critical stages of learning in their lives.

“Local authorities will be able to draw on the world class excellence in these new chains to drive up standards in weaker schools. And primary schools themselves will be able to opt to join a chain.”

The speech attempted to wrestle control of the issue away from the Conservatives, who have gained considerable positive coverage for their suggestion of ‘free schools’ set up and organised by the community.

Downing Street described the speech as the “next stage of reforms to ensure continued improvement in schools”.

It comes just days after Mr Brown spearheaded Labour’s ‘fightback’ election campaign with the new slogan: ‘A future fair for all’.

In a speech which pitched itself to centre-left voters, Mr Brown told his Labour audience at Warwick University that “I know where I come from and I know what I stand for and I know who I came into politics to represent”.