Annal Nayyar – Source :The Independent Newspaper 21 March 2014

Fourteen academy chains have been barred from running more schools because of concerns over, among other things, the standards and financial management in the ones they run now, MPs have been told.

The 14 chains, which include the biggest – Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) – are responsible for running about 200 state schools between them.

The news, which emerged on Wednesday, Budget Day, has fuelled claims that the Coalition Government took advantage of the Chancellor’s speech to bury bad news.

It has also reignited the row over whether Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, should be given power to inspect academy chains in the same way that it inspects individual schools and local authorities.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief schools inspector, and David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Schools minister, believe that Ofsted should be empowered to inspect academies, but so far Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has not backed such a move.

AET runs 77 schools and had prompted concerns over its rapid expansion. Another of the chains is E-ACT, which was forced to hand back a third of its 34 schools this year because of poor Ofsted reports.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “My main concern is for the children in those schools they already run – and whether they are getting a decent standard of education.

“It is one thing to say they can’t run any more schools, but what’s happening in  the schools already in place?

“These schools are left in no-man’s-land. When you add to this some of the free school fiasco, it is a story of educational failure. The issue has always been a lack of any local control over the schools.”

John Denham, the Labour MP and former Universities minister who had asked  how many chains had been barred, added: “It is extraordinary that so many academy chains have been barred from running schools.

“This will fuel attempts to make sure the academy chains are inspected – and not just individual academies.”

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