13/11/2012 13:48 GMT

Government To Turn 400 'Weakest' Primary Schools Into Academies

The government will no longer "put up" with failing primary schools.

Those are the words of prime minister David Cameron after hosting the sixth Cabinet meeting away from Westminster this year, at the John Cabot Academy in Bristol.

While at the school he announced that the government will improve the UK's 400 weakest primary schools by turning them into academies.

The prime minister took part in a question and answer session at John Cabot Academy in Bristol

Following the meeting, attended by 27 ministers, Mr Cameron spoke to around 100 students from primary and secondary academy schools in the area.

He told them: "It's been great to bring the whole Cabinet here, to get them out of Westminster, to get them out of that bubble that they sometimes live in and come and see a really great school, doing great things.

"Today in Britain there are still 1,300 primary schools that don't reach the required standard... 255 of them are so poor that they are actually in special measures.

"And so what we are announcing today is that we want 400 primary schools taken over by great academy chains like yours in the next year, because we are not going to put up with schools that fail and go on failing."

Mr Cameron said that by the end of next year he wants the schools to be paired up with sponsors to turn them into academies as part of his government's efforts to improve education in the poorest-performing schools.

He earlier said: "The driving mission for this government is to build an aspiration nation, where we unlock and unleash the promise in all our people. A first-class education system is absolutely central to that vision.

"We have seen some excellent progress with our reforms, including turning 200 of the worst-performing primary schools into sponsored academies, and opening more academies in the last two years than the previous government opened in a decade.

"Time and time again we have seen how academies, with their freedom to innovate, inspire and raise standards, are fuelling aspirations and helping to spread success.

Eton-educated David Cameron said he intends to send his children to state schools

"It is simply not good enough that some children are left to struggle in failing schools when they could be given the chance to shine."

The prime minister was quizzed by children from the Cabot Learning Federation, which includes six secondary schools and four primary schools across Bristol, Weston-super-Mare and Bath.

He took questions from 13 of the students, who could ask the prime minister about any subject they wanted, although all but one asked him questions on education.

Mr Cameron was asked by one of the pupils if he would be willing to send his children to an academy.

The Prime Minister responded saying: "I have three children, an eight-year-old, a six-year-old and a two-year-old.

"My eight-year-old and my six-year-old are at a London state school, a church school. It's a very good school, I'm very happy with it.

"I would like them to go to state schools. That is my intention and I think what's happening in the state school system is really exciting.

"I think there is a thoroughgoing revolution taking place, which is instead of just having a set of comprehensive schools, we've introduced an element of choice and competition which is leading to massive innovation - for instance as well as schools that are really successful that have converted to be academies we've also introduced free schools.

"So I think what we are seeing in the state sector is what we should have seen years ago which is the flowering of more choice, more competition, more diversity and crucially higher standards, and I want my children to be part of that."

At the time of the last general election, there were 203 academies but they were all secondary schools.

There are now 2,456 academies, with a further 823 in the pipeline. Of the new academies, 333 were formerly failing primary or secondary schools. Ministers want to spend up to £10 million to develop new sponsor links.

Speaking about his own education, Mr Cameron said he had been "very lucky" that his parents were able to fund him going to Eton College.

"It was a really amazing school," he told the students.

"I was very lucky. I had a very loving home life and my parents paid for me to go to this amazing independent school.

"But what I would say about it is that of course independent schools do get more money than state schools, and I'm not questioning that for a second, but I think the secret of a good school is actually the same all over the country.

"I would say that there's no school in the country that can't have the key features of great leadership, committed teachers, getting the basics right, proper rules about discipline, give them independence so they can choose how to spend the money they have, and that's what our reforms and our changes should be about."

Bethany Vigor, 17, who attends John Cabot Academy, asked the prime minister about support for lower income families in which someone wants to go to university.

Speaking after Mr Cameron left, the teenager, from Emersons Green, said: "I think he sort of answered my question, I think I was hoping for something a bit different though.

"I wasn't massively encouraged, although I liked that we would get some support and that we won't have to start paying back fees until we're earning a certain amount."

Andy Woolley, the South West regional secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the government's decision to turn 400 primary schools into academies was "irresponsible and rash behaviour".

"There is no evidence to show that academy status in primary schools will bring any educational benefits," he said.