Durham Free School funding to be terminated on March 27

Durham Free School will have its funding terminated at the end of this term, the Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed.

Janet Renou, the regional schools commissioner for the north of England, has written to the school to notify it of Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s intention to proceed with the proposed closure of the school, which was first announced last month.

It comes after the school was placed in special measures by Ofsted, which claimed in a damning report that the free school’s pupils were “prejudiced” and that teaching and learning was “weak”.

The school was first contacted by Ms Renou hours later on January 19, warned it faced closure and was asked to make representations.

Later that day, a statement issued by the DfE on behalf of Ms Morgan said she had “decided to close the school” and that its 94 Year 7 and Year 8 pupils would be transferred to other schools.

In the latest letter, Ms Renou said: “On January 19 I gave written notice of the Secretary of State’s intention to terminate the funding agreement and invited you to respond with any representations by February 3.

“On February 2 we received the academy trust’s representations in a letter of that date from your solicitors, Aughton Ainsworth, and your email, to which you attached your governance improvement plan and an earlier review of governance.

“Following my visit to the school on February 13 with an education adviser, you sent us a school improvement plan and a letter dated February 18 drawing attention to some areas of improvement. We have also seen Aughton Ainsworth’s letter of February 16, enclosing further information about pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.

“The Secretary of State has considered your representations. She has also taken into account representations made in letters and emails from parents and pupils of Durham Free School and others. Having considered all these representations carefully, the Secretary of State remains satisfied that it is appropriate to terminate the funding agreement.

“Consequently, I am issuing you with written notice to terminate the Funding Agreement with effect from Friday March 27.”

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “After carefully considering all of the issues and representations I have received, I have taken the decision to proceed with the closure of Durham Free School.

“The DfE operates on the basis that the interests of children must come first and it is clear that the school is not delivering the high standard of education that parents and I expect. It is also clear that there is no imminent prospect of improvement and I am not prepared to let any child remain in a failing school.

“While I know this decision will mean some upheaval for those pupils still in attendance, I am confident that it is the right thing to do. We are already working with the local authority to ensure every child is found a suitable place at another local school.”

John Denning, the school’s chairman of governors, said: “It is important that parents are informed by the school of the content of the Regional School’s Commissioner letter, and that is our priority at this time. The trust is also consulting its legal advisors.”

See Schools Week edition 20, dated Friday February 27, for more.

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