The government has today launched a consultation on the proposed definition of “coasting” schools.
The Education and Adoption Bill, currently passing through Parliament, would make it mandatory for maintained schools rated as inadequate to be taken over by an academy sponsor.
The bill also seeks to make it easier to force takeovers of “coasting” schools from 2016 by removing requirements to consult with parents and compelling governors to support the move.
In June, the Department for Education (DfE) proposed a “coasting” secondary school be defined as one that for three consecutive years (from 2014) had fewer than 60 per cent of pupils achieving five A*-C GCSEs (including English and maths), a below average proportion of pupils making expected progress in English and maths between key stages 2 and 4, and that received a below-standard score on the new Progress 8 measure in 2016.
This year, the provisional national average for pupils achieving five A*-C GCSEs including in English and maths was 56.1 per cent.
At primary schools, the coasting definition would apply to schools with fewer than 85 per cent of children achieving level 4 in each year between 2014, 2015 and 2016, and had below average proportions of pupils making expected progress in reading and writing and maths between key stage 1 and key stage 2.
A DfE press release said the new measure would allow sponsors to intervene faster and that protesters “physically attacked” a primary school in north London during its takeover by the Harris Federation.
The press release also claimed “hostile” campaigners “scared and intimidated” parents and schools.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan said: “For too long campaigners have deployed underhand tactics, spread malicious rumours and intimidated parents in order to deny children the opportunity of success.”
This claim has been called “shameful” by the National Union of Teachers.
Deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “The unsubstantiated attacks by the DfE on parents and local communities whose only crime has been to defend their school against the government’s strong-arm-route tactics to force schools into academy status, including deploying bullying academy brokers, is utterly shameful.
“Under Nicky Morgan’s watch, the department has plumbed new depths.”
The DfE press release said campaigners had “refused to provide important information” during takeovers.
But in 2013, the DfE was criticised by the Information Commissioner when it refused to release free school information to campaign group the British Humanist Association.
During a legal tribunal, the department used a survey by the New Schools Network to claim that free school supporters were being intimidated, and that releasing information would further exacerbate it.
The judgment said the survey was “biased” and “poor” and “fatally undermined” the department’s case. It also stated the “benefit of transparency and the ability to inform the public debate” was of greater importance than “safe space” arguments.
An education select committee report said in January that there is “no clear evidence” to show the academies programme had either raised or lowered standards.
The consultation will seek views on proposed definitions for coasting mainstream schools, special schools and pupil referral units. It will run until December 18.