A LANCASHIRE County Council leader has stepped into the political firing line by refuting Lancashire’s ‘failing’ education system.
He and union bosses believe schools are being bullied into becoming academies to meet the government’s agenda.
But some MPs believe the radical change is needed to improve education standards for primary school children.
A letter from Education Secretary Michael Gove to all MPs in the Lancashire County Council area calling for urgent action for failing schools was sent out this week.
He said he believes academies are the only route to raise standards.
Lancashire County Council’s Conservative leader Geoff Driver has opposed the government’s plans.
He said: “I simply do not recognise Mr Gove's description of Lancashire schools - it is not accurate in any sense.
“Far from 'underperforming', Lancashire schools consistently perform better than the national average and improve year on year.
"We recognise that the government is keen to roll out its academy programme at a faster pace and is perhaps frustrated by the low numbers in Lancashire of schools wishing to convert to academy status.
“Our view remains that the decision to move to academy status should be left to school governors and staff.
"But the proof of the success of the partnership between Lancashire's schools and the county council is amply demonstrated by the fact that nearly three quarters of the county's schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted."
Les Turner, NAHT, said the move has taken ‘tremendous’ courage to speak up.
“He has potentially ended his political career because he is putting Lancashire children and local schools first.
“Gove has staked his political reputation on turning schools into academies. At this moment in time Lancashire schools are being treated like pawns in a political game.”
He said there were almost 500 primary schools in Lancashire, and only four chose to become academies, adding that some have since been ‘bribed, bullied and blackmailed’ into becoming academies.
However Pendle MP, Andrew Stephenson, said he supports Mr Gove and believes radical changes are needed.
He said: “There has to be some way of breaking the cycle of under performance of these failing schools.
“Rather than shut schools, this is a radical way of trying to raise standards.”