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Academy chains accused of focus on 'empire building' not standards

Published 15/06/2016

Sir Michael Wilshaw said some academy chains had been 'empire building'
Sir Michael Wilshaw said some academy chains had been 'empire building'

Some academy chains have been guilty of "empire building" rather than ensuring their schools were providing a good education, Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.

He suggested that a number of executive headteachers of multi-academy trusts had been too focused on showing off how many schools they had, rather than standards.

His comments came in response to a question posed by the Commons education select committee on whether trusts had been had been allowed to expand too quickly, over too wide an area.

Some multi-academy trusts "have been allowed to grow to far too quickly, without the capacity to improve their individual schools", Sir Michael told the cross-party group of MPs.

"There was a lot of empire building going on and executive headteachers who wanted to show how many schools they had rather than whether they were any good or not," he said.

National Schools Commissioner Sir David Carter agreed that expansion had sometimes been too quick

"I think in some cases that's been a factor in under-performance, not in every one. We need to be careful we do not equate size and rapid growth with failure. I think there's examples where we can do that," he said.

He added that with the number of academies and academy chains set to drastically grow following Government reforms, he wanted to propose a structure that will allow sensible expansion.

Sir Michael Wilshaw later told the committee that it was right to raise the issue of achievement among disadvantaged pupils, describing it as "miserably poor", particularly in secondary schools.

Two thirds of secondaries are now academies, he said, the big challenge for these schools is to close the gap, he said, adding that academies declared failing by Ofsted are often under-performing because they are not closing this gulf and are not doing enough for bright, poor pupils.

The Ofsted boss agreed that academy trusts should not be allowed to expand unless they have a strong track record "particularly for poor children, showing that progress for poor children is at least in line with national expectations, and in my view, above that."

Sir David told MPs that he wants to introduce a new "health check" to help decide whether trusts should expand, looking at areas such as standards.

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