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Prime Minister: we want to go further and faster

David Cameron promises to tackle 'dangerous tolerance of mediocrity' in education during speech at academy

Posted by Stephanie Broad | December 23, 2015 | People, policy, politics

David Cameron spoke at de Ferrers Academy in Burton upon Trent earlier this month, where he spoke out about his vision for childcare, academisation and apprenticeships. 

He described academy conversion as a chance ‘to set our schools free’: “We’ve said to head teachers, ‘You control your budget, you decide on discipline policies, you set the ethos and direction of your school, and you manage it as you see fit.’ And at the same time, we’ve said to parents, charities, businesses, ‘You can set up new schools in the state sector if you want to.’” 

The government is so pleased with the progress of the academy programme, it wants to make maintained schools a thing of the past. Cameron continues: “Over the next five years, we want to go further and faster. We promised 500 new free schools in our manifesto, and since May we’ve opened 52 of them. We’ve also opened over 350 more academies, and yes, we have a new ambition: to make local authorities running schools a thing of the past. And while we’re doing that, we’ll take on another old failed argument; one that is perhaps more pernicious.

“For a long time, the message has effectively been: as long as we’re giving children an ‘okay’ education, and the school isn’t actually failing, then that’s somehow good enough. I say, ‘no’. Education is about fulfilling a child’s true potential, not just avoiding failure.” 

Finally, Cameron acknowledges academies in the government’s ‘coasting schools’ measures. Education leaders had highlighted that turning an underperforming school into an academy was not axiomatically the route to improvement – what if an academy is underperforming?

He concludes: “I’m announcing today how we’ll crack down on that dangerous tolerance of mediocrity. In our manifesto, we didn’t only set out how failing schools would be taken over by new leadership; we said that coasting schools would be taken over too. And today we’re saying that we will extend that to academies as well, so that potentially thousands more pupils are given the chances that they deserve. Yes, this is zero-tolerance of failure, but more to the point, it is zero-tolerance of mediocrity.”

Watch the full speech on the government website

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