Right to reply: in defence of academies

Academies are transforming education in the most deprived communities.

It's a shame that Mehdi Hasan didn't come to my department to check the figures he used in his academies article (playground tactics?). He is entitled to his opinion but we could have helped him make his piece factually correct.

For a start his description of academy funding is incorrect. Per-pupil funding for academies is based on exactly the same formula as other local schools. The difference is that all the money intended for the schools goes straight to it rather than a percentage - which varies enormously - being held back by the local authority. They can then use that money to buy services from the local authority or from another provider if that offers better value for money.

He then misrepresented the situation in Haringey. I think we need to be honest about standards at Downhills School. Their results have been below the national floor standards for four out of the last five years. The school had a notice to improve from Ofsted and was then placed in special measures after their last inspection. An Ofsted inspection carried out last month found it was "failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement".

How has Hasan, who believes in social justice, found himself on the side of people defending failure for the most deprived communities?

He is also wrong with regards to teachers' pay and exam results. Contrary to what he says, teachers pay is not lower in academies. Big academy chains are doing incredible work to provide extra training and professional development to their staff. If he had spoken to academies and their teachers, he would have heard a different story.

He has used flimsy data to attack academy results. Based on the latest data available, the free school meal pupils attending academies are improving faster than similar pupils in all other schools. This bears repeating - children from the poorest families are doing better in academies. Isn't that a cause for celebration? It is also a fact that as academies become more established they move to more academic subjects. And, of course, many students have already taken their GCSE options before their schools become an academy, so the longer term trend presents a more complete picture.

He quotes figures supposedly showing a supposed lack of public support for academies as an abstract concept. But in the real world, pupils and their parents are voting with their feet.

At Mossbourne Academy, whose predecessor was described as the "worst school in Britain" a total of 1,587 children have applied for 200 places this year.

Academies run by Ark have seen a huge rise in applications, with six children applying for each place at Ark Academy in Wembley. The Harris Academies chain had four applications for every place across all of their schools - schools which had been undersubscribed before becoming academies. Parents want their children to attend academies.

Of course, no anti-academy article would be complete without some choice use of exclusion data. The most recent DfE figures, published last month, comparing academies against a control group other schools with very similar pupils showed just 0.25 per cent difference in their exclusion rates - a quarter of one percent. 29 of the academies had no exclusions, compared to 32 of the comparison group. I struggle to see the scandal here. The National Audit Office and PWC both found no evidence that academy admissions and exclusions were having a negative impact on neighbouring schools; in fact the NAO said that academies were the schools most likely to be serving their local communities.

Last year researchers at the LSE found that academies improve faster than comparator schools even when controlling for pupil intake and the use of GCSE 'equivalent' qualifications. They also said that academies helped raise standards in local schools. Perhaps that's why, again contrary to Mehdi's claims, parents are queuing up to send their children to academies.

Jonathan Hill is the under-secretary of state for schools.

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I believe only Yvette Cooper has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy Corbyn

All the recent polling suggests Andy Burnham is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy Corbyn, says Diana Johnson MP.

Tom Blenkinsop MP on the New Statesman website today says he is giving his second preference to Andy Burnham as he thinks that Andy has the best chance of beating Jeremy.

This is on the basis that if Yvette goes out first all her second preferences will swing behind Andy, whereas if Andy goes out first then his second preferences, due to the broad alliance he has created behind his campaign, will all or largely switch to the other male candidate, Jeremy.

Let's take a deep breath and try and think through what will be the effect of preferential voting in the Labour leadership.

First of all, it is very difficult to know how second preferences will switch. From my telephone canvassing there is some rather interesting voting going on, but I don't accept that Tom’s analysis is correct. I have certainly picked up growing support for Yvette in recent weeks.

In fact you can argue the reverse of Tom’s analysis is true – Andy has moved further away from the centre and, as a result, his pitch to those like Tom who are supporting Liz first is now narrower. As a result, Yvette is more likely to pick up those second preferences.

Stats from the Yvette For Labour team show Yvette picking up the majority of second preferences from all candidates – from the Progress wing supporting Liz to the softer left fans of Jeremy – and Andy's supporters too. Their figures show many undecideds opting for Yvette as their first preference, as well as others choosing to switch their first preference to Yvette from one of the other candidates. It's for this reason I still believe only Yvette has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy and then to go on to win in 2020.

It's interesting that Andy has not been willing to make it clear that second preferences should go to Yvette or Liz. Yvette has been very clear that she would encourage second preferences to be for Andy or Liz.

Having watched Andy on Sky's Murnaghan show this morning, he categorically states that Labour will not get beyond first base with the electorate at a general election if we are not economically credible and that fundamentally Jeremy's economic plans do not add up. So, I am unsure why Andy is so unwilling to be clear on second preferences.

All the recent polling suggests Andy is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy. He trails fourth in London – where a huge proportion of our electorate is based.

So I would urge Tom to reflect more widely on who is best placed to provide the strongest opposition to the Tories, appeal to the widest group of voters and reach out to the communities we need to win back. I believe that this has to be Yvette.

The Newsnight focus group a few days ago showed that Yvette is best placed to win back those former Labour voters we will need in 2020.

Labour will pay a massive price if we ignore this.

Diana Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull North.