Thousands of under-performing schools are to be forcibly converted into independent academies in a plan unveiled by ministers today.
Education Secretary Michael Gove says local councils should hand over control of persistently weak schools to outside sponsors.
Authorities are being told to make 'hit lists' of the worst schools in their area. If they fail to act, Mr Gove will use new powers to impose academy status on under-achieving schools himself.
In a speech delivered to council chiefs , Mr Gove said that even schools judged as 'satisfactory' by education watchdog Ofsted were in danger of being targeted.
Thousands of primary and secondary schools could eventually be included in the crackdown.
But teachers unions see the measures as an assault on state education. Academies are part-private schools, which are funded by the state but operate outside council control. Instead, they are run by sponsors – including private companies, church groups and charities, who are granted powers to set the school's curriculum, staff pay and academic calendar.
Some 350 academies are already open in England.
Ofsted reports show that nearly one third of Englands 20,000 schools are judged to be 'inadequate' or 'satisfactory'.
Mr Gove said he would use his own powers to force academy status on weak schools if local authorities fail to intervene. Under the Coalition's new Academies Act, he can make an Academy Order to force a failing school to become an academy under new leadership.
He said: 'Of course, I would hope that I do not need to use these powers extensively as I fully expect local authorities to use their own extensive intervention powers to bring about change in poorly performing schools that are failing to improve.'
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