Inside The Academy School Revolution

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Zoe Williams turns school inspector to put a range of academies to the test.

Zoe Williams steps inside Education Secretary Michael Gove's academy school revolution to find out if removing schools from local authority control is really a magic formula for success.

Many primary schools and more than half of England's secondary schools have already converted, or are in the process of converting, to academy status - gaining greater control over curriculum, length of school day and general educational approach.

But teachers' unions and other critics warn that academies are democratically unaccountable and the changes to the education system will lower teaching standards and divide communities.

Zoe Williams spends time inside two flagship academies sponsored by the charity ARK. Does their "depth before breadth" policy, focusing on core curriculum subjects provide a rounded education? She finds out how pupils and teachers respond to a longer school day and to the introduction of a variety of US-style teaching methods. And she challenges ARK's co-founder, hedge fund manager Paul Marshall, about his motives for stepping into education.

Zoe also visits academies where staff and sponsors are still struggling to achieve success. St Aldhelm's in Dorset achieved the worst exam results in England in its first year as an academy and Sir Robert Woodard in West Sussex was placed in "special measures" after an Ofsted inspection found teaching standards to be inadequate.

Finally, Zoe challenges Michael Gove about the long term viability of his academy "experiment".

Producer: Brian King

An Above the Title production for BBC Radio 4.