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Academy reports delayed - union

Inspection of nine academies has been delayed for a year, prompting accusations that the Government changed the rules to prevent independent evaluation of its most controversial education policy before the election.

The Office for Standards in Education has delivered a public verdict on only one academy, despite a government promise that each of the independent state schools would be visited by inspectors within two years of opening.

Ofsted should have inspected up to 12 academies by now. Labour went into the election promising that academies would help to turn around failing inner-city schools. Inspectors this week revealed that the number of failing secondary schools has increased, however (see page 9).

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"My hunch is that inspections would show that academies' performance is not different to that of inner-city community or foundation schools - some are good, some bad and some doing their best.

"It would not have been a good time for the Government to have these reports coming out just before an election."

The expansion of the academies scheme, with a target of 200 by 2010, was announced in the Queen's speech. It is believed to be the brainchild of Andrew Adonis, who has been elevated to the House of Lords from the Downing Street policy unit to be an education minister.

Only the three academies opened in 2002 have been formally inspected and of these, only Greig city academy in Haringey, north London, has had its report published. Inspectors described the school as rapidly improving.

Bexley city academy, in Thamesmead, London, has also been visited by inspectors, who found "significant weaknesses", but its report was not published after the school threatened to take Ofsted to court over its findings.

Unity city academy in Middlesbrough is expected to be judged a failing school by inspectors when its report is published later this term, almost three years after opening.

None of the nine academies opened in September 2003 has been visited by Ofsted, despite a pledge on the Department for Education and Skills website that academies will be inspected "in the fifth or sixth term of their existence".

A DfES spokeswoman denied inspection of academies had been delayed.

But an Ofsted spokeswoman admitted the rules had changed. She said the first three academies should have been inspected in their second year but an agreement with the DfES meant the second wave would be inspected by the end of their third year.

Nine out of the 11 academies which reported results of national tests for 14-year-olds last year were ranked in the bottom 200 schools.

A report on the academies scheme by PricewaterhouseCoopers was due to be delivered to the DfES in December, but has yet to be published.

Barry Sheerman MP , who is expected to be reappointed chair of the Commons'

education select committee, said: "It's a little disappointing. The earlier we can get an assessment of how academies are doing, the better."


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