The fates of two UK schools, one in Derby, another in Sussex, are hanging by a thread after reports of mismanagement emerged.
The Department for Education announced measures against Al Madinah and Discovery schools after published report of their mismanagement. Al-Madinah, an Islamic faith school in Derby, and the Discovery new school a small primary school in Crawley, West Sussex; have been placed in special measures after failing inspections by Ofsted. They have both been investigated over financial and budget issues.
Al Madinah’s trustees have agreed to resign according to a letter sent from the school’s minister, Lord Nash to the chair of the governing body. Barry Day, chief executive of the Greenwood Dale foundation trust, sponsor of the Greenwood academies trust, which operates 22 academies and specialises in turning around failing schools, is to be handed the school’s supervision.
“I cannot tolerate any child experiencing a poor quality of education in any state-funded school and am therefore determined to ensure there is a swift resolution,” Nash wrote in his formal letter to Shazia Parveen, chair of the Al-Madinah Education Trust, which administered the school. “I have decided that the needs of the pupils at Al-Madinah school would be best served by bringing in a more experienced trust with the skills and capability required to deliver the improvements needed at the school.”
Until Day and the Greenwood Dale trust have had time to assess the state of the school, Al-Madinah’s governors will stay in place. Greenwood Dale taking over the school as part of its chain is one possible solution. The City of Peterborough academy and the City of Peterborough academy special school are two other free schools sponsored by the trust.
According to Richard Adams of The Guardian, a further letter from Nash to the chair of governors of the Discovery new school, starts the formal legal process that could end with the school being shut – which would make it the first free school to face forced closure. After receiving damning reports by Ofsted inspectors highlighting the inadequate progress made at Discovery – most recently during a visit on 12 November – Nash told the school it has 10 days to submit a “further action statement”, with the secretary of state to decide whether to terminate the school’s funding, in effect closing it.
“You will no doubt wish to inform staff and parents with pupils at the school of this step. I should reassure you that in the event of a decision to terminate a funding agreement of an academy or free school, we would work closely with the trustees of the school and the local authority in the interests of the children’s wellbeing and education, which is our priority,” Nash wrote in a letter to Chris Cook, chair of Discovery’s governors.
The turmoil at Al-Madinah and Discovery showed “fundamental flaws” in the government’s schools policy as stated by Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary.
“As we can see from the evidence of the failings at David Cameron’s flagship Al-Madinah and Discovery free schools, his changes are harming standards,” Hunt said. “He and his education secretary, Michael Gove, are refusing to take action to address the fundamental flaws in their schools policy that allows unqualified teachers in classrooms on a permanent basis, a lack of transparency and a complete failure of oversight.”
Discovery was among the first of the new breed of schools launched under Gove’s policy, and was the first to be judged as inadequate by Ofsted inspectors. Unless a sponsor or external management willing to take over the school is found, the school is in danger of being closed.
“As Ofsted reports that very little progress has been made since the school was placed in special measures, I remain extremely concerned about the quality of education children are receiving,” Nash said.