Cabinet minister told to check own schools

Coun Geoff Driver
Coun Geoff Driver
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Despite being ranked in the top third, teachers have been told they must do better.

The county’s teachers and education chiefs are up in arms after being told by Education Secretary Michael Gove that there are too many failing schools.

And, he has criticised the Tory-led education authority for having two-thirds fewer academies than the national average.

The minister wrote to Lancashire MPs in an attempt to persuade them to encourage more schools to convert to academies telling them “too many schools continue to under perform.”

He said the county had “chronically underperforming primary schools that have repeatedly failed to give their pupils the education they deserve.”

County Hall has been labelled “one of the main barriers to progress”, because, says the minister, the Conservative council “has failed actively to pursue sponsored academy solutions for it underperforming schools,” adding: “It (the council) has not encouraged its stronger schools to convert.”

Teachers leaders are furious after latest data from Ofsted revealed that despite having fewer primary schools than Lancashire, and being a much more affluent area, Mr Gove’s Surrey constituency has four times as many failing primaries.

Sam Ud-din, county secretary of the National Union of Teachers said: “If Gove wants to improve a local authority, he should look to the one that he has his constituency in – Surrey. Despite being considerably better off, four per cent primary schools there are graded as inadequate compared to only one per cent in Lancashire.

“The data for secondary schools shows very little difference between the two authorities, again despite the considerably more affluent area.”

Mr Ud-din, a secondary teacher, added: “Those who live in glass houses?”

Lancashire branch of the National Association of Head Teachers is campaigning for support and has written to all Lancashire MPs “to urge the DfE to change tack and not undermine either the LEA or the schools within it.”

Membership secretary Tony Roberts said: “Teachers are extremely annoyed, especially when the figures used are out of date.”

There were 32 schools deemed inadequate last year but of those 28 are now well above the ceiling and four are being helped by the LEA.

He added: “The letter to Lancashire calling them a failing authority is as disgraceful as it is untrue. It now has little to do with helping children improve, it is about Gove’s annoyance and pique that the primary take up of academy status is so low.

“The 32 ‘failing’ schools are based on 2011 figures. Now 28 of those achieved well above floor targets in 2012 and are improving. The other four are working hard to get their figures up. They would not get that level of support from an academy chain.”

Lancashire’s executive director for children and young people, Helen Denton, refuted Mr Gove’s assertions. In a letter to heads she presented detailed evidence “to strongly refute (Gove’s) comments regarding the performance of the county’s schools.”

County council leader Geoff Driver has written to Mr Gove and said: “The data you use in your letter is simply wrong.”

He added that over the past three years the number of schools in the county rated outstanding had risen 20 per cent to 72 per cent and this year Ofsted revealed that 72 per cent of Lancashire secondaries had improved compared to 29 per cent nationally.

Coun Driver accused the minister of “bully boy tactics” and added: “ I would be really interested to know what you think you have achieved by this latest action and how you think it will improve the education and life chances of Lancashire’s children.”

He has called for a meeting “sooner rather than later...before relationships deteriorate further.”

Despite several attempts by the Evening Post to contact Mr Gove he did not respond.