Academies fall too, say critics of plans for 'failing' schools

5th June 2015 at 01:00
Experts say change in structure will not fix struggling schools

Government plans to convert all "failing" schools into academies were attacked this week, after the most recent Ofsted inspection figures revealed that nearly a fifth of existing academies were rated less than good.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan announced "tough new measures" contained within new legislation that would automatically convert schools judged inadequate by Ofsted into academies. It is expected that up to 1,000 struggling schools will be turned into academies over the next five years.

The rules form part of the new Education and Adoption Bill that was laid before Parliament on Wednesday, which Ms Morgan said would "sweep away bureaucratic and legal loopholes exploited by those who put ideological objections above the best interests of children".

But the move was heavily criticised by school leaders and teachers, who questioned whether converting schools into academies was the best method of raising standards. Critics pointed to Ofsted's most recent inspection figures, which show that 18 per cent of academies were found by the watchdog to be requiring improvement or inadequate in their most recent inspection. Overall, 591 academies were deemed to require improvement and 133 were rated inadequate.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union, said that forcing schools to become academies was "not the answer".

"As the education select committee has said, it's too early to say whether academies are a positive force for change, and we know from the public accounts committee that 18 academy chains were prevented from expanding further because of concerns about standards in their schools," she added.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: "There are academies deemed inadequate by Ofsted. A change in structure is not axiomatically the path to school improvement. It is irresponsible to tell parents otherwise."

The bill will also crack down on so-called "coasting" schools, which will be given a notice to improve and offered support to improve standards. If no improvements are made, the schools will face a change of leadership. However, the definition of what constitutes a "coasting" school will not be published until the summer.

During a webchat with TES last week, Ms Morgan insisted that "social justice" was a key motive behind the government's plans for greater intervention in schools. "Education is a matter of social justice," she said, "and every young person deserves an excellent education.

"I visit schools up and down the country, I talk to many teachers, I see excellent schools, excellent teachers. But we don't see them yet everywhere. We know from Ofsted reports there are schools that aren't yet good enough, aren't yet consistent enough, and that's what I want to focus on."

Nicky Morgan's webchat with TES can be viewed at bit.lyNickyMorganWebchat

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