A free school in Newcastle that does not teach humanities, arts or foreign languages has been branded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in its first inspection.
The education watchdog singled out the “unacceptable” absence of subjects at Discovery School, which also omits physical education, in its report from an inspection conducted in May.
“The curriculum is failing to meet pupils’ needs and does not prepare them for life in modern Britain,” it said.
The website for the secondary-level free school, which opened in 2014, describes it as “a new, industry-driven technical school for 13-19 year olds from Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham”, with a special focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
At the time of the inspection, there were 188 pupils on roll, around four fifths of whom are male.
Ofsted noted that “far fewer pupils than anticipated” had been recruited, a situation which the watchdog claimed contributed to “the curriculum becoming narrow and unbalanced”.
Effectiveness of leadership and management at Discovery School was judged to be ‘inadequate’, while quality of teaching, learning and assessment, personal development, behaviour and welfare, outcomes for pupils and 16-to-19 study programmes were all rated as ‘requires improvement’.
The report confirmed two senior leaders “recently left the school”, while its principal Dr Wendy Allen “has announced she will retire at the end of the summer term 2017”.
“The trustees have belatedly recognised that the school’s staffing structure was not fit for purpose,” the report said, adding that “a restructure is currently underway in order to deploy more resources to front-line staffing”.
The quality of teaching was deemed “variable”, with leaders “slow to set out their expectations for teaching and learning” and failing to hold “teachers to account tightly enough”.
Provision for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities was “underdeveloped” and the needs of some pupils had not been identified.
“Some parents express concerns that their children’s needs are not being met,” the report said.
Outcomes in science, technology and mathematics at Discovery School were “broadly average” last year, but exam results in other subjects, including English, were “disappointing”, and leaders did not expect any improvements in 2017.
The school’s results for 16-to-19 study programmes in 2016 were “generally weaker than seen nationally” and the progress of current learners in the sixth form was “no better than average”.
Ofsted also found that “not all pupils value their education”, with attendance “below average”.
Strengths included a “positive culture” fostered by the outgoing principal, who “enjoys the loyalty and backing of her staff”.
The staff were said to be “keen to address the school’s weaknesses”, and pupils are enjoying “the well-resourced facilities available to them”.
Pupils were also found to “access appropriate destinations” when they leave the school.
Ofsted’s suggestions for improvement focused on strengthening “the quality and impact of leadership and management”, for example by “providing a broader and more balanced curriculum so that pupils’ academic and personal development needs are well met”.
It proposed an “external review of the school’s use of the pupil premium” to “assess how this aspect of leadership and management may be improved”.
Ensuring that “physical education contributes to pupils’ health and well-being,” and improving personal, social, health and economic learning to strengthen “pupils’ appreciation of fundamental British values”, was also recommended.
Discovery School was unavailable for comment.
Earlier this week, Schools Week reported that the government had threatened to rebroker a free school that was put in special measures after failing to enter any year 11 pupils for GCSEs.
The Route 39 Academy in Devon was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted on Wednesday (July 27), with inspectors criticising the school’s decision to keep all 13 of its year 11 pupils away from the exams.