Fallout from failing free schools could embarrass politicians

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Department for Education officials have warned ministers that further legislation may be required to enable ministers to intervene in failing free schools and academies.

Education secretary, Michael Gove's, flagship policy of allowing groups to set up schools outside the supervision of local education authorities has been the subject of a bad publicity in recent months. Now, struggling free schools have been earmarked for special fast-track attention by the government because of the potential for serious political embarrassment.

A leaked paper – reported by the Observer – reveals that DfE officials had warned the "political ramifications of any more free schools being judged inadequate are very high and speedy intervention is essential".

The leaked document shows that the Department for Education wants to tackle the problems at inadequate free schools before their failings are made public by Ofsted. It suggests that party political considerations are now driving education policy a year ahead of the general election.

Chris Keats, general secretary of the teachers' union, the NASUWT, said: "Parents and the public in general will be appalled. I have long said that Michael Gove is the secretary of state for free schools and academies, not a minister for education. This is what the government is focused on – and now it has been put in writing."

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, argues that free schools and academies benefit from freedom of oversight from local authorities, but the document suggests officials think more regulation is needed.

Just 38 free schools out of the 174 opened so far have been Ofsted rated. Six are outstanding, 21 good, eight require improvement and four have been found inadequate.

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