LEADING Tory councillors have stepped up their attacks on the Government’s strategy of forcing primary schools to become academies.
They have joined attacks on Education Secretary Michael Gove for “bribing”, “bullying” and “cajoling” heads and governors to leave local authority control to take the free-standing status.
Michael Lee, lead of Blackburn with Darwen Tory group, joined in Labour criticism of the Cabinet Minister as the borough’s executive board approved the transfer of land for Wensley Fold Primary to the ownership of the governing body.
Geoff Driver, Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council, backed up local head teachers’ boss Tony Roberts criticism of Mr Gove for “cajoling” junior schools into academy status by rejecting the Education Secretary’s claims that local primaries were “sub-standard”.
Last week Blackburn with Darwen Council signed over the land at Wensley Fold Primary which will become an Academy from March 1, on a 125 year lease.
The loss of Manor Road school, which underwent a £3million council-funded extension two years ago, was strongly criticised by Labour councillors at the borough executive board.
Education chief Tony Humphrys said the school had been 'bribed' to take the status and property boss Dave Harling said a valuable assets had been stripped from the borough’s land portfolio.
Coun Lee agreed the move was “unfortunate”, adding the council should have received compensation for the land transfer, including a lodge on the edge of the playing fields, from the government to support other schools.
Mr Roberts, secretary of the Lancashire branch of the National Association of Head Teachers said Mr Gove had been using “pretty heavy handed” tactics by offering schools inducement of up to £40,000.
He added: “He is going round the schools trying to cajole schools into becoming an academy.”
Coun Driver, who has accused Mr Gove of “bully-boy tactics”, said: “In 2011 69 per cent of schools in Lancashire improved compared to the national average of 29 per cent.”
He paid tribute to the efforts of teachers. He said: “Our schools are doing a marvellous job and improving standards all the time.
“It’s counter-productive to force them down the academy route.”