Morgan slams Hunt's Ofsted claims
Nicky Morgan has written to Labour's education spokesman calling for him to withdraw accusations that Ofsted is being used as a "political tool".
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said that Tristram Hunt owed the chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, an apology for the remarks.
During a TES pre-election debate on Wednesday night, shadow education secretary Mr Hunt claimed he had been told by inspectors that they had been pressurised by the Department for Education (DfE) to fail a school so that it could be turned into an academy.
The Labour politician told the debate: "I want to see stability in inspection, quality of inspectors and also crucially not to have Ofsted used as a political tool.
"I want Ofsted to returned to an independent inspectorate. So whether you've got performance-related pay or not it should not be a judgment about the quality of that school.
"And I have had Ofsted inspectors tell me that they have come under pressure from the Department for Education to fail a school so that it could become an academy."
In response during the debate, Mrs Morgan argued that the claim was "rubbish", later saying that Sir Michael is "the most independently minded person" she has met in education.
In a letter to Mr Hunt released last night, Mrs Morgan said that not only was the allegation that the DfE was pressuring Ofsted to give negative ratings "categorically untrue", it also risks undermining the confidence of heads, teachers and parents in the inspection system.
"We are well aware of the need to ensure that Ofsted constantly strives to improve the quality of its inspections and we have worked closely with Sir Michael to help reduce burdens on teachers," she wrote.
"But rigorous inspections of our schools are a vital part of ensuring that they perform their role of preparing young people for life in modern Britain. Recent events in Birmingham, Tower Hamlets and elsewhere have only reinforced the importance of their role.
"That is why I am now writing to ask you to withdraw the remark and to apologise to Sir Michael Wilshaw."
Mrs Morgan added that she would not tolerate a "deliberate attempt to smear my department and question Ofsted's independence".
An Ofsted spokesman said: "Ofsted has long valued its independence and ability to report without fear or favour. These are very serious allegations, which we simply do not recognise. If anyone has evidence that any inspector has ever come under political pressure to fail a school then we would urge them to come forward with this as a matter of urgency."