THE number of school academies in Kirklees continues to grow – but slower than at the national rate.
Kirklees already has 13 academies and a further four schools are in the process of converting.
Currently, about 7% of schools in Kirklees are academies, compared with the national figure of around 12%, shortly due to rise to 15%.
The Department for Education (DfE) has just announced that there are now more than 2,600 academies in England, with a further 500 in the pipeline.
The 13 Kirklees academies are: King James’s High, Moor End, Shelley College, Salendine Nook High, Mirfield Free Grammar and Sixth Form, Batley Grammar, Christ Church CE, Batley Girls’ High, BBG Academy in Gomersal, Castle Hall, Heckmondwike Grammar, Thornhill Community Academy and Lindley Junior School.
The four schools in the process of converting are Birstall Community Primary School, Earlsheaton Technology College, Fieldhead J I & N School, Birstall, and Overthorpe J I & N School, Dewsbury.
In September 2010, Heckmondwike Grammar School became the first academy in Kirklees and was one of only 32 in the country.
Despite academies moving out of local authority control and being funded directly by central government, Kirklees Council has vowed to keep working closely with all schools, regardless of status.
A council spokesman said: “Kirklees Council has a clear role as the strategic commissioner of the learning system. It is committed to working closely with all schools in the district to ensure that provision is strategically planned in partnership.
“Building on the strong family of schools in the district, the council wishes to emphasise the benefits of collaboration and partnership in raising attainment for all pupils and meeting the needs of vulnerable children, as well as in addressing wider societal need.”
The academy system was established in 2000 by the Blair Government, despite strong opposition from, among others, trade unions.
Academies receive a lump sum from the government on conversion. They are self-governing with greater freedoms, including the right to set their own pay levels.
Last year Shelley College, which became an academy in September 2011, caused controversy when it announced its intention to admit 12 and 13-year-old pupils. This threatened the future of the highly-rated Shelley Pyramid group of schools, which includes two middle schools.
The school backtracked after a public outcry.
Despite notable successes and improvements at numerous academies around the country, they are still a controversial issue.
However, the government remains committed to them.
Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “We believe in trusting the professionals. That’s why we gave teachers the opportunity to take on more freedom and responsibility and they have grabbed it with both hands.
“Many are now going even further and taking on responsibility for turning around less successful schools. These outstanding converters are becoming the new Academy sponsors of the future, raising standards across the state sector.”