A FAILING Pendle primary school is being forced to become an academy by the Government, according to its latest Ofsted inspection.

Walter Street Primary School in Brierfield was put into special measures last November and has since faced two inspections.

Inspectors said little improvement has been made and since the previous monitoring visit and the school will become a sponsored academy in 2013, backed by Nelson and Colne College.

Academies are publicly-funded schools run by non-profit making charitable trusts that are independent of local authority control with greater autonomy given to the headteacher, staff and governing body.

Sponsored academies generally replace underperforming schools where standards need to be raised. They are backed by sponsors, who are held accountable for their academies – particularly for improving performance.

Clare Smalley, deputy head at Walter Street Primary, said: “We are continuing to consult until mid-December on the proposed move to academy status, and are grateful for all the interest and comments we have received.

“Our website, www.walterstreet primary.co.uk, has all the up-to-date information.”

In autumn 2011, the Department for Education contacted Nelson and Colne College to ask if it would sponsor any local schools converting to become academies.

College principal Amanda Melton said: “The college was made aware that in the event that it was unable to do so, then a national sponsor would be brought in to sponsor local schools. Clearly such a move could have serious consequences for Pendle education.”

The college board decided that a local trust, backed by the college would be an alternative to a national sponsor.

Ms Melton added: “The decisions around Walter Street Primary School are not the college’s or the trust’s, but are decisions of the Secretary of State.”

Headteachers’ union NAHT’s Lancashire secretary Les Turner said the secretary of state was bullying schools into becoming academies. He said: “NAHT are not against academies. When all of a school community decides it is in their best interests to become an academy then so be it.

“However, when central government rides roughshod over the wishes, aspirations and desires of parents, governors and staff then NAHT will help them in their fight against forced academy status.”

County Coun Susie Charles, cabinet member for children and schools, said: “We consider all categories of school to be of equal value. A change to academy status is a matter for the school and the Department for Education.”

Last month Pendle peer Lord Greaves criticised the government’s refusal to name 19 ‘failing’ primaries, including five in Pendle, four in Burnley and three in Rossendale.