The largest sponsor of the academy schools programme has had a third school condemned by inspectors as failing. The education standards watchdog, Ofsted, declared Stockport Academy, run by the United Learning Trust, as "inadequate".
The ruling comes as the new Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is about to announce legislation aimed at giving the academies programme a shot in the arm.
Inspectors said standards in basic skills – maths and English – needed significant improvement among 11- to 14-year-olds. Last year only 25 per cent of students gained A* to C grade GCSE passes including maths and English.
Last year, two other academies sponsored by the ULT were also declared "inadequate": Sheffield Springs Academy was given a notice to improve while neighbouring Sheffield Park Academy was put in special measures which, in ordinary state schools, can lead to closure and replacement by an academy.
The ULT, a Christian charity, has sponsored 17 academies. After the two Sheffield schools were declared inadequate, it was barred from opening any new academies until it had improved standards in its existing ones. The organisation pulled out of plans to sponsor academies in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.