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Special Schools should also be academies, says Lancaster MP

John Freeman
Schools specialising in teaching children with special educational needs should also be considered for academy status, according to Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw - and the government appears to agree with him, despite opposition to the sheme already.

Mr Ollerenshaw made his appeal during an education debate in the House of Commons earlier this week.

After asking how many schools had converted, or applied to convert, to academy status in the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency, Lancaster's MP asked the government to ensure that every assistance is given to schools that specialise in teaching children with special educational needs so that they can enjoy the benefits of academy status.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education said he shared a commitment to ensuring that all children, particularly those who have special educational needs, can benefit from these additional freedoms.

"I am working with the Minister of State, Department for Education, Sarah Teather to bring forward proposals to allow special schools to become academies," he told the house.

Academies are publicly funded independent schools, free from local authority and national government control. Other freedoms include setting their own pay and conditions for staff, freedoms concerning the delivery of the curriculum, and the ability to change the length of their terms and school days.

So far, three schools have applied and have opened as academies in Lancaster and Fleetwood: Lancaster Royal Grammar School, Lancaster Girls Grammar School and Ripley St Thomas.

The total number of open academies nationwide now stands at 658, and more than 1,000 schools in England have applied to convert to academy status since June 2010.

Despite the claimed success of the government initiative, the Anti Academy Alliance notes Ministers have have been forced to turn down nearly nine out of 10 applications to set up new schools as part of the Government's flagship education scheme. (Full list here, including Lancashire)

The AAA describes the Academies Act as a "savage attack" on the education system in this country.

"It is an attempt to destroy a democratic, planned, state education system and replace it with a two tier, market driven collection of independent schools at the mercy of education companies driven by profit."

- More about Academy Schools on the Department of Education web site

- Anti Academy Alliance