SCHOOLS across Lancashire are being urged to help failing schools by becoming academy sponsors.

Schools commissioner Dr Elizabeth Sidwell met with school leaders from across the North West to talk about the benefits of greater freedoms to innovate and raise standards.

But union bosses say academies are resulting in a fractured education system without an overall guardian, due to academies and free schools being out of local authority control.

Dr Sidwell said that sponsored academies —which are failing schools not meeting the minimum attainment targets — require inspirational leadership and dedicated support.

If no local sponsor can be found, then a national sponsor would be brought in.

Nelson and Colne College have recently announced that it will be supporting failing Walter Street primary school in Brierfield, which will become an academy from February.

Principal Amanda Melton said: “The college does not have a role in judging whether a school is operating effectively, or whether it could or should become an academy.

“We will try to be as supportive a partner to the school as possible.”

Brendan Loughran from Darwen Aldridge Community Academy said academy status had given the school the freedom and independence to flourish.

“We can use the freedoms that come with the independence of an academy to make sure everything we do secures the outcome of the students.

“We specialise in entrepreneurship and we are one of the most improved schools in the country.

“The new types of provision, such as academies and free schools create greater flexibility to meet future needs than local education authority schools.”

However Avis Gilmore, North West regional secretary for the NUT, said academies were an unwanted privatisation of the education system.

She said: “We are completely opposed to academies. We have real concerns, not just about academies, but about the ability to change the curriculum, the pay and conditions of staff, and the effect they have on other schools in the area.

“They make it impossible for the local education authority to plan for the future, which can only be detrimental.

“Academies are no better or worse than academically than local authority schools. There’s no proven benefit to them.”