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    Michael Gove's Converter Academy Schools Disproportionately Serve Wealthy Families

    Researchers warned in 2010 that the Education Secretary's academies policy would increase educational inequality.

    Olivia Harris / Reuters

    Education Secretary Michael Gove at the London Academy of Excellence in Stratford, East London February 3, 2014.

    Schools granted academy status under the coalition government's academy conversion programme are disproportionately serving pupils from wealthier families, figures obtained by BuzzFeed show.

    According to Department for Education statistics, secondary schools granted academy status under the coalition government's converter programme are taking well under half as many pupils from low-income backgrounds as academies set up under the sponsor-led scheme .

    The figures, obtained by BuzzFeed, show that only 11.1% of pupils at academies set up under the Coalition's conversion programme receive free school meals, compared to 27.7% of children who attend academies set up under the sponsor-led academy schemes, which was first set up by the last government.

    Free school meals are normally claimed by pupils from families with lower incomes. The low proportion of children on free school meals means that Michael Gove's academies serve wealthier families than the other types of state school, with fewer low income families than in the coalition's higher profile free schools programme.

    The proportion of pupils claiming free school meals in different types of school: academies set up under Gove serve the fewest disadvantaged pupils.

    The last Labour government mainly set up academies in low income areas, but as education secretary Michael Gove has changed the rules to allow any school to become an academy. This opportunity has mainly been taken up by schools with pupils from wealthier families.

    The figures were obtained from the DfE's internal 'schools census', which is not usually published in its raw form. In 2010 researchers at the London School of Economics' Centre for Economic Performance issued warnings that the coalition's academies changes would "exacerbate existing inequalities in schooling" and mainly benefit children from wealthier families.

    The average proportion of children claiming free school meals across all secondary schools is 16.3%.

    Academy schools differ from local authority schools in that they are not accountable to local councils, and have more powers over their own budgets and teaching. The academies programme was started under the last Labour government and intensified by the coalition.

    The current government has continued to set up sponsor-led academies, including free schools, but has set up nearly four times as many converter academies.

    An earlier version of this article implied that the coalition government had ceased to set up sponsor-led academies. This is not the case and the article has been corrected.

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