CAMPAIGNERS for a new free school have expressed confidence in the academy chain which is backing the project, despite heavy criticism from Ofsted.

Stephen Fryer, chairman of the Ingleby Manor Foundation Trust, said working with the School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA) group had been “fantastic” and he had no qualms about continuing to work with the academy chain, which will be the trust's educational partners in the venture.

SPTA has been heavily criticised by Ofsted after inspectors found that a number of its schools are failing to give pupils a decent education.

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But Mr Fryer said the Ingleby Manor Foundation Trust, which has campaigned for a new free school in Ingleby Barwick, near Stockton, “couldn’t ask for more” from its academy chain partners, SPTA.

He said everyone in the trust was looking forward to the new school opening in a converted industrial building while the new school, due to be ready by Christmas 2015, is being built.

“The head teacher and teaching staff we have got are all first class. We can’t wait to get started,” said Mr Fryer.

Ofsted has written to bosses at the SPTA warning that it has too many under-performing schools which have been in this position for too long.

Inspectors visited six SPTA academy schools last month and found that four were judged to require improvement. Two had improved from inadequate and the other two had seen no change in their rating.

Of the other two academies inspected, one was still rated as inadequate and the second was judged to be good, up from a previous "satisfactory" judgement under the old ratings system.

"Five out of the six academies are not providing a good quality of education," said the letter, which was signed by Nick Hudson, Ofsted's regional director for the North East, Yorkshire and Humber.

In a statement, SPTA said:"Whilst the trust looks forward to discussions with Ofsted about how to improve our performance, it is important to consider the facts in relation to the whole group, not just the six schools that were inspected."

The trust said that overall, 13 of its primary academies (48 per cent) are rated as good or better, along with five (33 per cent) of its secondary academies.

The spokesman said there is “ample evidence,” that SPTA is a highly effective sponsor of schools.