School academies are failing to reach out to the poorest students

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has criticised the government for allowing many Free Schools and Academies to effectively turn their backs on many children with special educational needs or who are on free school meals.

Since the Government has come to power the proportion of children in Academies and Free Schools who fall into those categories has fallen from 30% under the last Labour Government to just 5% under the current Tory led one.

At a session of the Education Select Committee, Alex challenged Education Secretary Michael Gove as to whether free schools were simply a means of creating schools independent to local authorities, rather than driving up standards and tackling underperformance.

Mr Gove however merely stated that a reduction in the proportion of pupils from deprived backgrounds was a sign of a school’s ‘success’ and was not seen as an issue.

Alex said:

“This is just yet another clear example of the Tories failing the poorest children in our society. Under Labour, academies were almost exclusively opened in poor areas to replace under-performing comprehensives, and this generated significant improvement in their GCSE results.

“However the Tory-led government’s academies programme is merely increasing existing inequalities in schooling and at great cost.

“At a time when school budgets are facing real cuts in their budgets for the first time in nearly 15 years, the Government cannot justify spending huge amounts of money in converting already advantaged schools into academies. The focus needs to switch to those where there is the greatest need to drive up standards”