Tristram Hunt
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt accused the Department for Education of pressuring Ofsted inspectors to fail schoolsGetty

Nicky Morgan has written to the Labour education spokesperson demanding he apologises for the "categorically untrue" claims he made about Ofsted.

The education secretary is calling for Tristram Hunt to retract the comments he made at a pre-election debate held by the TES education magazine where he accused Ofsted inspectors of purposely failing schools so they can become academies.

Morgan has criticised the shadowed education secretary for suggesting Ofsted is being used as a "political tool" and believes he should personally apologise to its chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw.

During the debate, the Labour MP said: "I want to see stability in inspection, quality of inspectors and also crucially not to have Ofsted used as a political tool.

"I want Ofsted to return to an independent inspectorate. So whether you've got performance-related pay or not it should not be a judgment about the quality of that school.

"And I have had Ofsted inspectors tell me that they have come under pressure from the Department for Education to fail a school so that it could become an academy."

In a letter responding to the "rubbish" claims, Morgan said: "We are well aware of the need to ensure that Ofsted constantly strives to improve the quality of its inspections and we have worked closely with Sir Michael to help reduce burdens on teachers.

"But rigorous inspections of our schools are a vital part of ensuring that they perform their role of preparing young people for life in modern Britain. Recent events in Birmingham, Tower Hamlets and elsewhere have only reinforced the importance of their role.

"That is why I am now writing to ask you to withdraw the remark and to apologise to Sir Michael Wilshaw."

She added she would not tolerate a "deliberate attempt to smear my department and question Ofsted's independence".

An Ofsted spokesperson said: "Ofsted has long valued its independence and ability to report without fear or favour. These are very serious allegations, which we simply do not recognise. If anyone has evidence that any inspector has ever come under political pressure to fail a school then we would urge them to come forward with this as a matter of urgency."