Headlines: September 10th, 2008

Figures today show that more than half of English universities have agreed to sponsor academies. So far 45 of the 88 universities have signed up to sponsor or set up a partnership with an academy in their area and even more have expressed an interest in being involved.

The schools secretary, Ed Balls, is urging more universities to back academies and said in addition to those already signed up 20 more were in talks or has shown interest in being part of a drive to raise attainments in areas that had traditionally been deprived. He said it was vital that children learned about university culture and saw it as something every child could aspire to.

“Pupils at some of these predecessor schools were too often in the past seen as underdogs – I want them to be undergraduates,” Mr. Balls said and added, “We need to widen participation in higher education and it is a natural next step for the academy movement, set up to raise attainment in areas that had suffered from deprivation and decades of underperformance, as it matures, to inject university culture into every nook and cranny of school life.”

Last year rules that required organisations to provide two million pounds before they could sponsor an academy were scrapped in a bid to encourage more universities to get involved. Details of the increasing links between universities and academies comes today as education ministers open 30 new schools around the country. They are among 180 new or refurbished schools opening this term.