The inexorable rise of the academy is changing the dynamics of our education system. More than 70 struggling schools in the region have already been given no choice - they must convert and with the help of a sponsor improve their performance. The Education Secretary is adamant he wants action.
There's no doubt that there are some fantastic academy success stories - the school I visited this week at Haywards Heath in West Sussex is certainly one heading in the right direction. Heyworth Park Primary has had a chequered past - results up, results down but no overall consistent improvement. Now it's being sponsored by a successful local secondary school, Warden Park - it has a new head, a new name that celebrates that link - The Warden Park Primary Academy - and a new sense of purpose. This September it retained its entire staff for the first time anyone there can remember and it's achieving improved exam results - up by more than 20 per cent in one year - and the children are making better progress than in many other schools up and down the country. And that's great.
But as always, it's the hard work of the teachers, staff and community that's turning this school around - not a new sign over the door. Did the school need the kickstart that academy status has given them to make real change? Perhaps. But the seeds of successful progress that the school is beginning to harvest now must have begun before the school was converted. It takes more than 12 months to turn around attainment. Academy status in itself is not a magic bullet.