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The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is inviting all primary and secondary schools, including special schools, to apply to become academies.

Schools ranked “outstanding” or “good with outstanding features” are automatically eligible for academy status, but all other schools will have to partner a school ranked as “outstanding” by Ofsted if they wish to apply. Special schools will be able to apply for academy status from January 2011.

The Government has argued that its academy programme will drive up standards in education by providing schools with greater freedom to manage their own affairs. Special schools, it is claimed, will be better able to respond to the specific needs of their pupils.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said: "Improving education is central to our reform agenda and we are committed to giving Governors, headteachers and teachers more control over how they run their schools. We know they are best placed to decide how to give their pupils the best possible education and that is why we are encouraging more schools to become academies.

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