The abandoned Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme improved results in struggling schools, an official report has revealed.
The report was drawn up by defunct school building quango Partnerships for Schools in September 2010, but has never been officially published. It was released yesterday by Building magazine, following a freedom of information request.
Its findings raise questions about schools secretary Michael Gove's claim that there was "no firm evidence" that results had improved as a result of renovation.
Gove made the comment when he scrapped the programme in July 2010, two months before the report was drawn up.
The PfS report considered the results and attendance of 29 schools rebuilt under BSF and re-opened in 2008.
In nearly two-thirds (65%) of cases, progress towards the government's GCSE results target was "at or above the national average rate". New BSF schools improved by an average of 9% between 2006 and 2009, compared to a national average of just 4%.
What's more, 73% of the schools improved their rate of attendance. The average improvement was bigger than the national average over the same period.
The report also found that BSF has a positive impact on attainment across entire local education authorities (LEAs). Schools in 11 of the 13 LEAs considered in the report improved faster than the national average.
It stressed, however, that there was not enough data to conclude how much impact the new buildings themselves had. The process of developing new schools, or other unrelated factors, may also have contributed to improved performance.
Most of the schools surveyed "started from a very low position", the report noted – suggesting that improvements could be a result of reversion to mean performance.
Labour education spokesman Stephen Twigg (pictured) was critical of the government's refusal to publish the report.
"[David] Cameron promised this government would herald a new era of transparency, but Michael Gove seems to have missed the memo," he said. "He should explain why this report seems to have been buried by the Department for Education.
“If we are to raise school standards, policy should be driven by evidence not the personal prejudice of ministers."