School academy applications rise in Devon and Cornwall

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Some critics fear the growth in academies could lead to a two-tier education system

A growing number of schools in south-west England are applying for academy status.

An academy receives state funding but is independent of local authority control, meaning it is free to run its own budget and curriculum.

There are already 17 schools with academy status in Devon and Cornwall and another 65 have applied for it.

Devon has a total of 55 while Cornwall has 27, according to figures from the Department for Education (DfE).

Primary and secondary schools rated outstanding or good with outstanding features by Ofsted can apply to convert to academy status.

In addition, any school can apply with other schools as part of a partnership, providing at least one has an outstanding rating.

In January the government said giving schools greater autonomy would help to improve standards.

"Schools are taking up our offer to become academies because they recognise the huge benefits of being an academy - more autonomy, more power to teachers, and an opportunity to thrive, free from interference from government," Education Secretary Michael Gove said.

Kingsbridge Community College, which is rated as outstanding, is one of the schools in Devon which became an academy in January.

Principal Roger Pope told BBC News he believes the autonomy will help the college achieve even more success which in turn will benefit pupils.

"We've always had a really good relationship with Devon as our local authority and we expect to continue to do that," he said.

"But I think it's part of natural human psychology that when you feel as though you've got total responsibility then you rise to that challenge and start to think outside of the box."

'Massive responsibility'

Some critics have argued the growth in academies could lead to an undemocratic, two-tier education system.

Julian Brazil, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Kingsbridge, said he was concerned about the big increase in applications for academy status and the potential consequences.

"We have a massive responsibility to our children and their education," he said.

The government said local authorities would retain certain responsibilities such as transport, special needs and admissions and discussions would be held about how to manage the impact of change on local authorities.

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