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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Pressure mounting on Michael Gove over Cumbria schools scandal

Pressure is mounting on the Education Secretary to reveal how the standards scandal engulfing secondary schools in Cumbria can be solved.

Michael Gove photo
Michael Gove

Calls are intensifying for Michael Gove and the Department for Education to intervene directly to ensure improvements to an increasing number of poorly-performing schools.

They include academies funded directly by central government and those that may be at risk of intervention after failing Ofsted inspections.

Carlisle’s Richard Rose Central and Morton academies are among those condemned as inadequate and languishing in special measures.

Cumbria County Council is investing £500,000 in school improvement after Ofsted this week said it has “serious concerns” about the quality of secondary education in the county.

Council leader Stewart Young said: “Andrew Johnson, the senior inspector for Ofsted, said we should be lobbying ministers to ask what is being done to improve standards in the schools that are not in our control.

“I want the Department to set out how it is going to make these schools improve. I’m writing to Mr Gove.

“You can’t take schools out of our control then hold us to account if they are not performing well.”

Mr Gove remains tight-lipped on the issue.

Mr Young, meanwhile, also hit back at criticisms that the council had not done enough to prevent standards from plunging.

He argued the authority only had powers to intervene in schools outside its control when their standard of education was judged to be inadequate.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said: “We must not lose sight of the fact that there are many schools in Cumbria that are good, outstanding or are rapidly improving. However, we have to address those issues raised.

“I think academies have greater freedoms to decide what is in their best interests for their schools and it gives greater powers to heads, governors and the schools to do the right thing because they are far more responsive than the local authority I will be speaking to Government ministers after half-term.”

He added that the Department for Education would need time to fully analyse Ofsted’s report into Cumbria’s struggling secondary schools.

Ofsted this week published its health check into 17 schools, including academies and a sixth form college. Inspections were carried out last November and December.

None had improved since their last inspections.

A DfE spokesman said: “We expect all schools to perform well. If they are not, we will not hesitate to take action to ensure that all children get the first-class education they deserve.”

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