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New figures show Camden bucks nationwide academy schools trend

PUBLISHED: 19:17 14 January 2013 | UPDATED: 19:17 14 January 2013

New UCL Academy at Swiss Cottage

New UCL Academy at Swiss Cottage

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

After the opening of more than 2,600 academies across the country, new government figures show Camden is bucking the nationwide trend with just one academy among the borough's 60 schools.

The Department for Education (DfE) figures reveal that Camden’s only academy - UCL Academy in Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage, a new secondary school which opened last September - accounts for just two per cent of the total number of schools in the borough.

This compared with a London-wide average of 13 per cent of schools per borough set up as academies.

Exactly half of all London secondary schools are now academies, while only four per cent of primaries in the capital are now academy-run.

Camden is currently without a single primary school academy and was named the best local authority in the country for primary schools by schools inspectorate Ofsted last November.

Cllr Angela Mason, Camden Council’s cabinet member for children, said: “The model we have in place in Camden works and it’s worked historically. Our primary schools are an example of how our model works extremely well.”

But Cllr Andrew Mennear, leader of Camden Conservatives, questioned the contribution of Camden’s primary schools to their overall success.

“It’s very difficult to tell whether the performance is the performance of the school or the added value of the private tuition which more and more parents are getting for their children at home,” said Cllr Mennear.

He added: “Most of the results show that academies are faring very well, particularly in the poorer areas. Camden’s families are arguably missing out on improved education standards above and beyond what is currently being achieved.”

The DfE figures show a total of 17 academies in Barnet, with 15 secondary and two primary schools run as academies in the borough.

In Haringey, there are eight primary school academies and three secondary academies, accounting for 13 per cent of the total number of schools.

The statistics emerged in the wake of a recent report criticising aspects of the academy programme, which is seen by the government as a template for education in the future.

The report from the Academies Commission, set up by the Royal Society of Arts, raised concerns that academies were taking advantage of the ability to set their own admissions criteria by selecting more able pupils.

Cllr Mason echoed the report’s findings, and said: “Academies operate on a competitive model so they compete against other schools, whereas we in Camden try to work in a more collegiate manner.

“I don’t want a situation where there are elite schools and schools for children who are disadvantaged.”

The commission also pointed to a lack of transparency and openness, particularly over the way academy sponsors are chosen, as a cause for concern.

More damningly, the report warns the government’s push to increase the number of academies is not leading to a consistent rise in standards.

Cllr Mennear hit back at the report’s criticism of admission policies at academies, pointing to the process carried out by UCL Academy.

He said: “I’ve got absolute full confidence that UCL is vetting people purely on the basis of their proximity to the school.”

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