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zcoalitionfailfreeschools

The Tory ‘Free Schools’ vanity project has been a complete disaster, with more than £51 million wasted on new schools that failed to meet inspectors’ standards or proposals for schools that were cancelled or withdrawn.

A report compiled by the Labour Party shows that £50m has been spent on free schools either declared inadequate by the education standards watchdog, Ofsted, or requiring improvement. A further £1.043m was spent on applications that were cancelled or withdrawn.

Of the 79 free schools opened in the first and second waves of the Michael Gove project, no less than one in three have been declared inadequate or requiring improvement by schools watchdog Ofsted. This compares with one in five schools overall – that’s including the institutions that ‘Free Schools’ were expected to outperform.

It is noteworthy that, according to shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, the number of “inadequate” schools is equal to the number employing, as teachers, people with no teaching qualifications – one in three.

Worse still, the government has been caught trying to “massage” the figures. The example provided to us by a report in The Independent shows that the Hartsbrook E-Act Free School in north London, declared inadequate by Ofsted, was given a new name and number. This means the school appears as closed, even though it is now operating under a different name (Brook House Primary School), with the same head teacher and pupils in the same location. The re-designation means it won’t be inspected again until four terms have passed.

That could be disastrous for pupils, who by then will have spent almost another quarter of their primary school career in an environment that has been declared substandard, simply to save the government from embarrassment.

It seems the pupils aren’t the only ones who need to learn how to grow up and act in a mature and responsible manner!

Overall, primary ‘Free Schools’ are underperforming in reading, writing and mathematics, in comparison with the rest of the state sector.

It gets worse: Of those free schools whose 2013 national-curriculum test results were published, all bar one underperformed compared with the rest in their local authority and the national average.

Is this the revolution announced so boldly in the Coalition Agreement?

“We … believe that the state should help parents, community groups and others come together to improve the education system by starting new schools,” it told us in 2010.

“We will promote the reform of schools in order to ensure that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand; that all schools have greater freedom over the curriculum; and that all schools are held properly to account.

“We will give parents, teachers, charities and local communities the chance to set up new schools, as part of our plans to allow new providers to enter the state school system in response to parental demand.”

Which parents demanded this?

Free Schools also offered the opportunity to employ unqualified people as teachers. The Tory-run Education Department claimed this was a way of bringing in expertise that would not otherwise be available – now we know the facts.

‘Free Schools’ have been an expensive waste – not only of money, but of time and the potential of the school pupils they have failed.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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