A STRUGGLING school in Bolton — one of 200 “weak primaries” to have controversially been turned into an academy — has been cited as an example of how the government is turning around failing schools.

Plodder Lane Primary School in Farnworth shut at the end of the 2012 academic year and reopened as The Ferns in September of that year, free from local authority control and run by sponsors Northern Education Trust.

The school had been placed in special measures for the second time, leading the Department for Education to step in and offer Bolton Council a chance to find a sponsor — or for the department to appoint one.

It was one of 200 of the “weakest primaries” in 2012 to become sponsored academies and the government this week claimed that sponsored academies, which are effectively state-funded independent schools, help to raise standards in under-performing primary schools.

This was reflected in the publication of the primary school performance tables in December.

Key stage two national curriculum results show that results have improved, with 80 per cent of children achieving the required level in maths, compared to 61 per cent in 2011 and 73 per cent in English compared to 63 per cent in 2012.

The Ferns is ranked 87 out of 94 primary schools in Bolton, compared to 90 in 2012.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The best way to turn around the stubborn under-performance that exists in some schools is to bring in a sponsor.

“These sponsors bring with them experience, strong leadership, know-how — and a track record of success.

“It is vital we continue to raise standards so all children leave primary school with a thorough grounding in reading, writing and maths so they can thrive at secondary school.”