Today we return to Derby for another sponsored academy success story. This time it has been delivered by the CfBT Schools Trust and has taken place at the Grampian Primary School in Sinfin.
Two years ago only 54 per cent of pupils at the school were reaching the expected basic standard in English and maths – the "floor" all primary schools are required to reach is 60 per cent. The result this year was 100 per cent. The conversion to an academy and the move to replace teaching assistants with teachers were both initiatives opposed by the unions.
Chris Perkins, the headmaster, says:
"It was very hard work. But when I see that the area we are in has 60 per cent deprivation and only five per cent of residents are high-flyers, then I know we did the right thing to bring an improved method of learning to Sinfin."
"Having curriculum freedom that being an academy brings means that we can concentrate on other work with the children such as problem-solving and teamwork right across the school.
"For example, we can introduce a project such as creating a wildlife area in the school and see it through from start to finish.
"This could mean taking pupils out into the Peak District to look at what works in wildlife areas through to having nature lessons, or having an intensive programme of visits and visitors.
"So the good work we did before becoming an academy is able to continue."
"Another positive from becoming an academy is that the school has been given the funding to be re-roofed this summer," he said.
"We have also had two open areas roofed so that we can use them as two additional group study areas.
"This had been on Derby City Council's agenda three times previously over several years but each time it was cancelled".
"But now within a few months we have bid for and been given the money through the trust of which we are a member.
Astonishly Labour-run Derby City Council remains unrepentant about opposing academy status.
Cllr Martin Rawson, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said:
"I believe the most important way to raise standards in schools is for them to work with the council rather than changing the name of the school to an academy."
CfBT has 18 schools in the UK and has produced excellent results. Stamford Queen Eleanor School in Lincolnshire saw the numbers gaining five good GCSEs including English and maths increase from 43 per cent to 57 per cent in a single year.
St Mark's Church of England Academy in Merton, when it was a council-run comprehensive called Mitcham Vale School only had 13 per cent achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths in 2006. This year it was 52 per cent. Not that this was easy – at first it was sponsored by the Southwark Diocese and continued to fail. Only when CfBT got stuck in was dramatic progress seen. It is not enough to have a sponsor, it needs to be the right sponsor.