DfE ‘drags its feet’ on academies report

Ministers have been accused of dragging their feet over the publication of a key academies document that will reveal how schools commissioners are judged.

Education secretary Justine Greening is bound by law to produce an annual report on the performance of academies, which must also be laid before parliament.

The government has published the document, Academies Annual Report, in either June or July for the past four years, but this year’s report is yet to surface.

Schools Week has been told it will outline the key performance indicators used by the government to judge how well its regional schools commissioners (RSC) have done in their second year. It is the first time the government will have published the measures.

The disclosure is potentially contentious as it could show that RSCs are still judged on how many schools they convert into academies, a criterion criticised as a conflict of interests after it was first exposed by Schools Week in 2014.

It’s hard not to believe ministers have something to hide when key reports aren’t published when expected

Janet Downs, a campaigner for local schools, said: “It’s hard not to believe ministers have something to hide when key reports aren’t published when expected.

“It’s not the first time – the Department for Education appears to be dragging its feet on releasing the costs of academy transfers… so much for transparency.”

The department refused a freedom of information request in June by Schools Week for a list of the RSC’s performance indicators.

Its response, received in August, said the refusal was on the grounds that it was not reasonable to release “piecemeal information in advance of its planned timetable and planned publication.

“If the government were to release this information as requested on different occasions, this would result in partial information being released over a protracted period leading to confusion and inaccuracy.”

However, when asked this week when the document would be published, the department would not confirm a date, saying it would be “released soon”.

It did not respond to questions about the delay.

The department has been criticised about the report in the past. While investigating a separate data issue, the UK Statistics Authority found the 2013-14 academies report included statistics that had not previously been released, with the source data unpublished.

Ed Humperson, director general for regulation at the authority, said not releasing the statistics made impartial comment difficult.

The annual report must be presented to parliament, and so will appear in the appendix to the formal record of proceedings in the Commons and the Lords.

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