The school has since made some improvements, said Ofsted
The government has admitted the creation of Carlisle's troubled Richard Rose academy was "a mess".
In January, the school's head teacher and chief executive left the school when it was put into special measures just five months after opening.
It was only the second time Ofsted had judged an academy to be failing.
Speaking to the BBC, Children's Secretary Ed Balls said there had been problems in the way the school was set up but changes had since been made.
His comments come on the day the government announced it is to make it easier for private sponsors to take over and run English state schools.
Inspectors paid an emergency visit to the Richard Rose academy after complaints from parents, who feared for their children's safety because of staff shortages.
It was given the lowest possible rating - "inadequate" - meaning it needed intensive support to improve.
Mr Balls said 'big changes' were made at the academy
Mr Balls said: "The Carlisle school was a mess and Ofsted made that clear.
"There were problems in the way the school was established. I sent the schools minster up there to see what had gone on.
"We changed the head teacher - big changes in the school.
"There are individual cases where things don't work - of course there are."
In June, Ofsted published a report saying the academy was improving.
The schools watchdog said progress to improve teaching and learning was now gaining momentum, and communication with parents had improved.