Nicky Morgan clashed with MPs over the extent of academy failures, during a hearing in parliament today.
Labour MP Ian Austin, speaking at a session of the education committee, said that one-fifth of the country’s 4,410 academies were in the bottom two Ofsted categories, according to figures compiled by the House of Commons library, and had been in those categories for an average of 2.7 years.
Figures obtained by the MP also revealed that 95 academies rated either inadequate or requires improvement have remained that way for five or more years.
In a statement sent to newspapers after the hearing, Austin (pictured) said the figures showed “there’s no evidence that forcing every school down this route will drive up standards”.
“When one in five academies have been failing for an average of two-and-a-half years, what confidence can parents have that the government taking responsibility for every school will transform school standards as the Prime Minister pretends?”
Education secretary Morgan said the comparison was unfair as many of the schools included in the figures were forced to become academies because of poor performance, the suggestion being that their poor Ofsted ratings may relate to historical issues.
“The first set of schools to become academies [in this Parliament] were ones that were entrenched in underperformance, from local authorities, for years.
She said that “lumping” together different academy types meant the figures did not “tell the whole story”.
Morgan then repeated the claim that 88 per cent of schools that voluntarily converted to academy are rated as good or outstanding. It had been made earlier by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions.
But the committee noted a problem – most voluntary converter schools already had to be good or outstanding before becoming an academy.
We also revealed last year the number of academies rated inadequate by Ofsted, after Morgan repeatedly refused to reveal the figure when questioned by national media as she unveiled the Education and Adoption Bill.
Morgan said at the time: “We think a day spent in a failing school is a day too long when their education is at stake.”
I don’t think it’s a question of inflicting anything on anybody
Schools Week found at that time, there were 133 inadequate academies. One academy, Sir John Gleed School, in Lincolnshire, had been inadequate for more than two years.
Today she said that 126 academies are inadequate but not give an average length of time.
Earlier in the hearing, Morgan said she was “surprised” by the “many emails” and private messages she has received in support of the Government’s radical academies plan.
Morgan later denied an accusation from Labour MP for Gateshead Ian Mearns that the Government would be “inflicting” change on state-run schools which were already successful.
She said: “I don’t think it’s a question of inflicting anything on anybody. I think it is a question of offering people the opportunity to be autonomous and run themselves.”
Asked three times by Austin why academisation did not feature in the Conservative election manifesto last year, the secretary of state replied: “We’ve looked at the failing and coastal schools, looked at the numbers, looked at the finances.
“This is an opportunity to build a stronger system.”