Three-quarters of free schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted at first inspection

Published on Thursday, 01 August 2013 12:54
Written by Vicki Mitchem

Three-quarters of the first 24 free schools were rated 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted, the results of their first inspections show.

Of the 24 free schools inspected:

  • 4 were rated 'outstanding'
  • 14 were rated 'good'
  • 5 were rated 'requires improvement'
  • 1 was rated 'inadequate'

Despite being a small sample, the results are an encouraging start to the free schools programme. The achievements of the schools are particularly impressive given they have only been open for 2 years and have often faced strong local and national opposition.

Ofsted inspects all new schools within 2 years of opening, so the 55 free schools that opened in September 2012 will be inspected over the course of the upcoming academic year.

The 24 free schools were inspected under Ofsted's tougher new inspection framework, introduced in September 2012. As with any schools judged 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate', free schools will be expected to take steps to ensure a swift turnaround. The department will act on continued underperformance, including potentially closing the school or handing it over to a high-performing sponsor or existing school.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said the results were further evidence of the high standards at free schools. He said:

Too often the best schools are only available to the rich who can afford to go private or pay for an expensive house in the catchment area of a good school. Free schools are giving all parents – not just the rich – the choice of a high-quality school with great teaching and strong discipline.

Two ARK free schools, Conway Primary Academy in Hammersmith and Atwood Primary Academy in Westminster, Canary Wharf College in Tower Hamlets, and All Saints Junior School in Reading were all rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted. They scored the highest rating across all 4 inspection categories: achievement of pupils; quality of teaching; behaviour and safety of pupils; and leadership and management.

Five of the 14 free schools rated 'good' have 'outstanding' features, according to their reports. The schools which received the 2 lower ratings will now be subject to monitoring visits from Ofsted. They are expected to take the appropriate steps to improve, or face further action.

The first 24 have proved immensely popular within their local communities with all either full or close to full.

There are 81 open free schools. Around a further 200 are planning to open from September and beyond. In total, all currently approved and planned free schools would deliver 130,000 new school places when full.

It underlines the growing popularity of the policy and the demand for new, high-quality schools.

Source: DfE


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