LANCASHIRE schools faced with becoming forced academies could be given a reprieve if they can prove they are improving.

Union bosses have heard that Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, is taking a much more measured approach on how hard, and fast, he executes his powers to force failing schools to become academies.

Rob Kelsall, from the National Association of Headteachers union said: “Academy brokers acting on behalf of the Department for Education have expressed that if a school is in special measures on paper, it’s eligible to become a forced academy.

“However, if it’s making improvements and is able to substantiate this through HMI monitoring visits, we understand the Secretary of State for Education would not be minded to execute those powers for fear of legal challenge.

“The government is almost performing a risk assessment on whether they feel a school would be able to bring a challenge in the courts and prove that they have improved.

“There have been at least two judicial reviews or appeals, including Walverden, in Nelson, which proved that the Secretary of State was wrong and the school was right.

“The government is taking a more measured approach. It has become a poker game.

“The Secretary of State is deciding whether to take the risk.”

NUT national executive member Simon Jones welcomed the news.

He said: “If this is true, it’s good news that they are getting the message that forcing schools to become academies is unpopular with governors, parents and teachers.

“The government is yet to provide evidence that it does anything to improve standards.

“We still maintain that schools that need extra support are best placed with the local education authority.”

Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver said: “I have heard the same rumour, and I suspect that we will not hear it officially.

“If the Secretary of State is taking a more measured view, we welcome that. It’s counter-productive to force them down the academy route.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Our academies programme has been hugely successful and continues apace. Academies have already turned around struggling secondary schools across the country and are improving their results at twice the national average.”