2,309 of our schools are now academies – 282 became academies this month. Also this month we have had 55 new free schools opening – more than twice as many as the 24 that opened last year.
So the revolution is on course. However the aspect that is perhaps most significant, is that of the 282 extra academies this month a record 130 are sponsored academies. This brings the number of sponsored academies to 501.
It is sponsored academies that pose the biggest threat to failing schools, bad teachers, "progessive" teaching methods, and the teaching unions who are so noisy in defending these dubious causes. It means failing schools are put under new management. The pupils will be the same – although rapidly there will be rather more of them. The building will be the same. Some teachers will be the same – although usually there will be a new head. The name will usually be changed at least slightly to show there has been a change.
Sponsored academies are frequently hostile takeovers. They occur at schools that are not just bad but among the worst in the country; schools that are not just failing but have persisted in failing. Schools that have the worst results and are the bottom preference for local parents. Where even amidst the shortage of school places they have many empty desks revealing parent's desperation to avoid the school.
Looking down the list of the new sponsored academies I see that those who will be running them include such charities as ARK, E-ACT, the Kemnal Academies Trust, the Academies Enterprise Trust, the Harris Federation, and Oasis. These are all organisations with a record of proven success, transforming the schools where they have already taken charge. They are changing schools that had been among the worst in the country, to being among the best.
Where are the Labour Party in all this? Haringey has four new sponsored primary schools on the list – including the infamous Downhills. The local Labour MP David Lammy should be celebrating but instead has attacked the change.
As a Liverpool MP, the Shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, will be aware that his Labour council has some of the worst schools in the country. One of them, Shorefields, has now become a sponsored academy. Yet rather than welcoming this, the Labour Party scream and shout in protest. Mr Twigg may not have joined the demo, but instead kept his head down. That is not good enough.