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22.10.14

Education secretary ordered by MPs to clarify Ofsted powers

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has been ordered by MPs to write to the chief inspector for schools to clarify Ofsted’s powers to inspect academy chains.

Morgan has clashed with the chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, over Wilshaw’s belief that Ofsted should be given additional powers to inspect and grade management of the chains that run academy schools, as it already does with local authorities.

When quizzed about this by the education committee last week Morgan said that Ofsted powers to inspect schools were already sufficient.

“I’m not entirely sure that visiting the head office is actually going to yield more than going and talking to the people who are actually running the chains,” Morgan said.

Conservative MP Graham Stuart, chair of the committee, responded: “You’re kidding me. If you wanted to know what was going on at Shell you’d be quite happy to be told: no, don’t go to the head office, just go around and visit their refineries?

“That’s not how I would audit Shell. I’d want to get right into the heart of the headquarters and I’d want to get right to the heart of finding out who’s running the organisation.”

Morgan maintained that “going to look at an office is not actually going to help”, prompting Stuart to say: “That’s a bit trite, isn’t it? It’s not the office, it’s the people. Trying to find out who runs the organisation.”

Stuart also told Morgan as she gave evidence to the committee: “It’s absurd. It would be like trying to judge an army by only talking to people at the front line, and not having a meeting with the generals in charge.”

Since giving evidence Morgan has refused to back down and she appeared in front of the committee again today.

In the time since the last hearing she said that she had looked at a series of inspections Ofsted at schools in academy chains and concluded that Ofsted have the powers in effect already.

Committee chairman Graham Start asked: “Michael Wilsaw says he does not have the power to inspect. You are saying you disagree with that?”

“I am,” replied Morgan.

“That’s bizarre,” said Stuart. “I’m struggling with this.”

Unable to resolve the situation, he asked Morgan to write to Sir Michael to clarify Ofsted’s powers to inspect chains.

(Image: c. Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

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