Schools commissioner signals big increase in primary schools becoming academies

Tim Coulson, centre, with the Bishop of Norwich and pupils at the newly-formed Flitcham Academy. Pic

Tim Coulson, centre, with the Bishop of Norwich and pupils at the newly-formed Flitcham Academy. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

The next year will see a big growth in the number of primary schools that become academies, the regional schools commissioner has said.

Currently, the clear majority of high schools in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are already academies - state-funded schools independent of the local authority - but the number of primary academies is much smaller.

Tim Coulson, whose role as regional schools commissioner (RSC) sees him hold academies to account, and approve new conversions, said: 'In terms of secondaries, I think it's happened. Primaries are the next big one.'

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Under the government's Education and Adoption Bill, currently going through Parliament, RSCs will have powers to insist that schools defined as under-performing should become academies, if their improvement plans are not deemed good enough.

Dr Coulson said: 'I think the big question for the coming year is primaries, and the numbers are huge. There are 75 primary schools in Norfolk that require improvement.

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'Now, they don't all have to join an academy trust straight away, but the direction of travel is that the government is signalling [it] believes academy trusts are the route for schools not doing well enough.'

He said ministers are giving RSCs a reserve power to insist schools Ofsted judges 'requires improvement' become academies.

Dr Coulson said his working assumption was not all would, but 'many of them will'.

He added: 'I would like many of them to want to do so.'

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