Michael Gove’s boast that “over 1,000 schools” had applied for academy freedoms have been exposed as wildly off target with the revelation that just over 150 had in fact done so. Also queried in the wake of the figures is the education secretary’s justification for rushing through the academies bill, telling the Today programme last week that “hundreds” of schools were anxious to convert.
The overestimation of the number of schools applying for academy freedoms follows Gove’s litany of errors over the announcement of the Building Schools for the Future scrappage, described as “intolerable” and “astonishing” by Labour MPs, and a “regrettable error” by the man himself.
Shadow education secretary and Labour leadership candidate Ed Balls today seized on Gove’s latest blunder:
“Michael Gove railroaded the Academies Bill through Parliament in a way that’s only normally done for emergencies like anti-terrorism legislation. He said this was because hundreds of schools wanted to become Academies, over a thousand schools had applied and many of them wanted to open in September.
“Now barely ten per cent of that number, around 100, have even applied for Academy status and none of them will convert in September, Michael Gove must explain why he rushed this Bill and misleadingly claimed that more than one thousand schools had applied. It seems to me that the real reason for the rush was to avoid proper scrutiny for a deeply flawed piece of legislation.”
In a DfE press release in early June, Gove had originally claimed:
“The response has been overwhelming. In just one week, over 1100 schools have applied. Of these, 626 are outstanding schools, including over 250 primary schools, nearly 300 secondary schools (over half of all the outstanding secondary schools in the country) and over 50 special schools.”
On June 2nd, the DfE said the total number of schools who have applied for academy freedoms was 1,114: 488 non-outstanding schools and 626 ‘outstanding’ schools, of which 273 were primary schools and 299 secondary schools; now, however, the figure is 158 – 110 secondaries and 46 primary.
Balls today added:
“Michael Gove must now publish the criteria he is using to decide which schools will be granted Academy status and which won’t. He said outstanding schools would be ‘pre-approved’, but we already know that at least one of them has been rejected.
“Just like the chaotic announcement on school building cuts it seems that arbitrary decisions about schools are being made by Mr Gove and his Department. This is what happens when local councils and local communities are cut out of the picture and decisions about hundreds of individual schools are made at the centre by Ministers.”