Ofsted slams Durham Free School as inadequate – 16 months after Gove praise

Ofsted slams Durham Free School as inadequate - 16 months after Gove praise

Durham Free School – which was praised by former education secretary Michael Gove – has been branded inadequate in all areas.

Ofsted’s report, published today, said “some students hold discriminatory views of other people who have different faiths, values or beliefs from themselves” and that achievement and assessment is “weak”.

The inspection took place in November last year, just over a year since it opened in September 2013.

At that time, talking about the school, Mr Gove told MPs it represented “excellent value for money” and said: “For far too long, schools in County Durham, particularly in the east of the county, have not been good enough.

“Parents at last have a challenger school helping to raise standards in an area where, frankly, working class children have been let down for far too long by a complacent Labour Party.”

The secondary school now has 94 pupils in Years 7 and 8.

The report noted that, at the time of the inspection, the headteacher was on a long-term absence and the deputy headteacher (academic) was appointed as acting headteacher six weeks before the inspection.

The report said until recently the religious studies curriculum was “too narrow” and students’ understanding of different faiths was “sketchy”, with some holding “prejudiced views which are not challenged”.

It added: “The promotion of student’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural understanding is weak. This is shown in students’ lack of understanding and respect for cultures other than their own and the school is not doing enough to improve matters.

“Students’ social development is also poor, with many demonstrating a limited ability to recognise the needs of others or appreciate that other students can have opinions which differ from their own. Some struggle to moderate their behaviour or take responsibility for their own conduct.”

The report added that the governing body, on appointing leaders and teachers, has focused too much on candidates’ “religious credentials” rather than talents and track records.

Inspectors were also concerned about the safety of pupils, particularly on buses to school.

The report said: “Recorded incidents on school buses indicate that, at times, students are not fully safe when travelling to and from school because of the unacceptable behaviour of a minority of students. There are incidents, for example, of students spraying after-shave into other students’ faces, crawling around under seats and failing to use safety belts.”

They were also worried about sex and relationships education at the school and did not feel students were equipped to deal with certain problems if they arose.