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February 28, 2014 / politicsbitesize

Academy Chains to Face Ofsted

OfstedSince its inception in the early 1980s, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has inspected and regulated all state and independent schools throughout the UK.  This non-ministerial government department has been responsible for the grading of schools, and recently ministers have called for the body to be allowed to further its reach to include academy chains.

As more than half of all secondary schools in England are now academies, the Education Select Committee (ESC) called for powers to inspect sponsors of academy chains to be given to Ofsted.  Toward the end of 2013, the cross-party committee considered the role that these chains play within the current education system and proposed that they should face the same rigorous scrutiny that local education authorities already do.  

The report that the MPs on the committee delivered highlighted the increasingly important position that academy chains play in the improvement of previously failing schools.  It also recognised the importance of holding these chains to account for the education that they provide.

This week Ofsted inspectors raised serious concerns about one of the biggest academy chains in England.  E-Act is to lose control of 10 of its schools because of worries about poor performance.  The academy chain was subject to a mass inspection by Ofsted, who found that the educational standards in a third of its schools were unsatisfactory.

The academy programme is the pet project of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who told the BBC that most academy trusts had been successful in bringing about improvement.  He went on to add that, ‘it’s right that they should be held to account – and both academy trusts and local authorities have, in the past, been ineffective, at times, in bringing about the rate of change and the speed of change required. So where they have been less than effective, we’ve decided that it’s appropriate that action be taken.’

EACTNew sponsors for the 10 schools will now be found. In the meantime, E-Act have released a statement saying they will work closely with the Department for Education in order to identify where they can improve educational standards.  The schools taken from E-Act include two in the South West (Dartmouth and Forest academies), two in Yorkshire (Leeds East and Leeds West) and two in the Midlands (Trent Valley and Sherwood academies).

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