Free school campaigners challenge accuracy of Ofsted verdicts for thousands of primaries

NSN, a charity campaigning for more free schools, asserted that thousands of ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ schools are ‘failing to reach the three Rs’ (reading, writing and arithmetic). The analysis arrived as ministers declared that ‘enemies of academies’ were ‘scaring and intimidating’ parents who were supportive of academy policies as they launched a consultation into new powers to intervene in underperforming schools.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said there had been a ’series of pro-academy propaganda pieces’ as the Education and Adoption Bill made its way through Parliament. The Bill has drawn criticism from a number of groups including the Catholic Church.

The NUT’s deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “The NUT is not uncritical of Ofsted. However, it is an independent inspectorate, accountable to Parliament. Its inspectors judge schools, taking into account a range of evidence.

“It is better able to judge the quality of education provided by a school than the New Schools Network which, as its press release demonstrates, does not appear to understand the meaning of an average and recognise that some schools will be above and below average."

The NSN research found that 33.2 per cent (3,802) of schools graded good or outstanding by Ofsted is falling short of average attainment.

Overall, 80 per cent reach level 4 by the end of primary school. Level 4 is the minimum requirement necessary for children to go on and successfully secure five GCSEs at A*-C. Of those pupils who do not attain level 4, just six per cent continue to achieve five good GCSEs.

Nick Timothy, director of NSN, said parents would be ‘shocked’ at the prospect of primary schools being judged good or outstanding, despite being unable to equip enough of their pupils with the basics.

He said: “Free schools and academies are already more accountable than maintained schools. They are accountable to the Education Funding Agency for their finances, to regional schools commissioners for their performance, and they're accountable to central government which can, in extreme cases, close them down.

"But this research shows that more needs to be done to improve accountability in the system as a whole.”

Nicky Morgan contended that academies were being stalled by ‘campaigners’ who deployed 'underhand tactics, spread malicious rumours and intimidate parents'.

The Education Secretary announced plans to consult on tougher new measures in the Education and Adoption Bill, allowing the government to intervene in schools deemed to be either ‘failing’ of ‘coasting’.

Morgan added: “Our new measures will allow teachers to get on with the job of improving failing schools and deliver on our commitment to extend opportunity and deliver real social justice.”

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