• Durham Free School: homework was ‘isolated incident’
  • Morgan announces on Wednesday that school will close

    Durham Free School will close at the end of this term – and Schools Week can exclusively reveal a science teacher told pupils “God has designed the solar system”.

    The school, which opened in September 2013, was sent a letter on Wednesday afternoon by regional schools commissioner Janet Renou informing it of education secretary Nicky Morgan’s decision to terminate its funding agreement.

    Schools Week has discovered David Hagon, a teacher at the school, in September asked year 7 pupils to complete a worksheet as part of their science homework that stated God was responsible for the design of the solar system.

    The worksheet (pictured) said: “Only the Earth has life on it. God has designed the solar system so that the Earth can support life.”

    Any school, academy or free school that is found to teach creationism as a scientific fact would be in breach of the law and its funding agreement.

    Ms Renou (pictured below) said the school’s representations did not “sufficiently” address “major weaknesses” including the need “to address a culture of intolerance of people who have different faiths, values or beliefs”.

    The school, which is in special measures, said this was an isolated incident and the worksheet was not school literature, but put together by Mr Hagon. Despite repeated attempts, we were unable to contact Mr Hagon for comment.

    Schools Week understands that the content of the homework was raised with Mr Hagon at a school parents’ evening at the end of September. Former headteacher Peter Cantley was also informed of parents’ concerns before he left the school in October.

    Mr Cantley is reportedly the whistleblower who informed the Department for Education and the Education Funding Agency about issues at the school.

    Concerns were raised as part of the “Trojan Horse” investigations last year after it emerged a teacher at Park View School in Birmingham had issued a worksheet to boys in a sex education lesson that told them women had to “obey” their husbands.

    A spokesperson for Durham Free School said: “Legitimate concern was raised over this matter as the worksheet was in clear contradiction of the school’s policy and practice.

    “It was an isolated incident, which the former headteacher dealt with promptly, firmly and appropriately; the worksheet is not used by the school.

    “The teacher referred to taught a very limited science timetable as a subsidiary subject, sharing responsibility for teaching some classes focusing on physics and chemistry.”

    Chair of governors John Denning said the school was seeking legal advice after Wednesday’s announcement of its impending closure.

    Lawyers acting on behalf of the school have already threatened Ms Morgan with a judicial review if she remained involved in the decision-making process.

    The school was expecting a monitoring visit from Ofsted inspectors yesterday, and Ofsted confirmed given the Ms Morgan’s decision the visit would no longer take place. At the time of the last Ofsted inspection the school had 94 pupils; some have since moved schools.

    Ms Morgan said: “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 that every child is found a suitable place at another local school.”

    The school will close on March 27.