Cash for academies: Michael Gove ‘bribes’ schools to change their status

Officials from Michael Gove’s department are offering £65,000 “bribes” to convince reluctant headteachers to convert their schools to academies. This is from the Independent…

The sweeteners are being offered to schools which drop their opposition to academy status – sparking claims that taxpayers’ money is being spent on “buying off” critics of the Education Secretary’s pet project.

Teaching leaders described the incentives as “questionable” and “disturbing” at a time when overall education budgets are being cut.

The Independent understands £40,000 in payments have been offered to 32 schools in Lancashire alone, with similar sums offered to schools in other parts of the country. Some schools have also been offered £25,000 towards legal fees. In a letter to Mr Gove’s department obtained by this newspaper, Tony Roberts, from the NAHT headteachers’ union, criticises two “brokers” – officials from the Department for Education (DfE) tasked with converting state schools to academics – for offering payments to win over a reluctant group of state schools in Lancashire.

The DfE did not deny that incentives were being deployed, but said the additional cash was for “improvements” to be made in schools where it was necessary.

The sanctioned use of cash to persuade state school to make the switch to academies will be another embarrassment for Mr Gove.

The news has emerged after a leaked memo last week revealed the Education Secretary, pictured, is considering the outright privatisation of academies and free schools, enabling them to abandon their charitable status and become profit-making.

The rate of academy conversions is also deemed to be at a critical stage, with more progress urged before the next general election in 2015.

Previously, schools converting to academies have been told they would be spared the impact of budget cuts, but the offering of one-off payment appears to represent a stepping up of Mr Gove’s drive to roll out the programme.

Out of 484 primary schools in Lancashire, only four have opted for academy status. Although half the country’s 3,000 secondary schools are now academies – up from just around 200 at the time of the last election – Mr Gove is facing increasing resistance, especially from primary schools, to make the switch to academy status.

Only 6 per cent of state primaries have become academies.

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