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Southampton schools "on the up", says Education Secretary
Education Secretary Michael Gove said he believed the city was “on the up”, but wants to see more schools break away from local authority control to become academies.
He was speaking on a visit to the Daily Echo offices after cutting the ribbon on a new £1.1m eight-classroom extension at Freemantle CE Community Academy, one of the first infant schools in the country to opt to convert to academy status.
Mr Gove said he was “very impressed” by what he had seen at Freemantle.
He said: “The children there seem happy, focused and it’s fantastic to be in a school where the head and the staff are so energised and focused.”
Mr Gove dismissed fears that more schools opting out of council control would undermine its ability to continue providing “strong leadership” in co-ordinating improvements in schools.
Mr Gove said he believes standards will improve as more schools become academies and encouraged heads who are uncertain about converting to spend time at an academy to see its benefits.
He said: “It’s a win-win situation for everyone. All the evidence is that the more academies there are in an area the better all schools do because the academies pioneer new ways of doing things, which all schools learn from and a spirit of friendly rivalry ensures that both sets of schools do better.
“What you’ve had in Southampton, particularly under the Conservative administration, has been a really strong focus on improving services overall and they recognise academies are part of that solution and part of that way of getting not just better value for money but better standards for parents.
“I think the local authority still has a big role to play in championing those schools that are doing well and working as a partner.”
Mr Gove said the shake-up of education he has led would not see an end to either controversial SATs for 11-year-olds or league tables for primary or secondary schools.
Later Mr Gove visited Peter Symonds College in Winchester to discover more about its sustained success in maths that last year saw more than half of all grades in the subject coming at grades A* to B.
The college currently has more than 1,000 students studying maths at AS or A-level – up a third in four years – and he praised the extra-curricular activity and impact of staff support on university applications.