Science free school with no RE lessons put in special measures

Ofsted said half-termly internal exams were 'burdensome' and left staff workload 'unmanageable'

Ofsted said half-termly internal exams were 'burdensome' and left staff workload 'unmanageable'

A science specialist free school that did not teach religious education and ran formal tests every half term has been put into special measures.

East London Science School (ELSS), in Newham, was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in a report published today. It was previously ‘good’.

Ofsted said staff workload was “unmanageable”, with six rounds of internal exams “burdensome”.

Teachers planned revision in the week before exams which “reduces the time given to teaching the curriculum…leads to gaps in pupils’ knowledge” and “increases teachers’ workload unnecessarily”.

Pupils at the school, which “aims to teach a high-quality academic curriculum”, did not have religious education lessons when inspectors visited in June. There was also “no clear curriculum” for personal, social, health and economic education.

ELSS was one of just 23 schools that featured in an Ofsted study into good curriclum design which informed the new inspection framework.

But inspectors found its relationships and sex education curriculum did not meet statutory requirements.

“Pupils do not learn enough about consent, healthy relationships and diversity,” the report added. “They are not receiving the information they need to be prepared for life in modern Britain.”

Former schools minister Nick Gibb has spoken highly of the school. He praised ELSS in 2019 for entering 98 per cent of pupils into a language GCSE – putting it in the top two per cent of schools in the country.

Gibb also congratulated the school, set up in 2012, on its 85 per cent EBacc entry rate.

Ofsted outcome ‘disappointing’, says chair

Kevin Hinde, chair of governors, said the school was working “diligently to address the issues”. RE has been reintroduced and tests are now termly “allowing more time for pupils to master the material”.

“As a school which prides itself on its high standards and academic aspirations, the outcome of the Ofsted inspection is deeply disappointing,” Hinde added.

A significant number of pupils told inspectors that bullying was a problem. Some SEND pupils were “not receiving the support they need to learn successfully”.

“The culture of safeguarding is poor”, the report stated, and governors had “not acted in a timely way when safeguarding concerns have been raised”.

“These failings risk pupils’ safety,” the report stated.

Parents were “particularly disappointed” there had been no parents’ evenings since the start of the pandemic.

The school was chaired up until May by Adam Atashzai, an adviser to David Cameron in Downing Street from 2012 to 2016.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was also a trustee for two years up until November 2015.

Hinde said the safeguarding team had been “rebuilt”, a new PSHE curriculum had been introduced with one-hour weekly lessons and the school’s leadership capacity is being strengthened.

“Although there will be many changes and challenges to come, the ambition of the school is to offer a high-quality academic education to everyone,” he added.

“This continues, as does the primary focus of the school – to provide the best for our pupils, and instill a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.”

School was rapped over £1,600 drone spend

A government investigation published in December last year rapped ELSS for buying a £1,600 drone to take marketing pictures while having “weak” finances.

People with connections to the school’s founding principal – David Perks –were “improperly” appointed into leadership roles, the report found.

Payments to a firm, run by Baroness Fox of Buckley, that oversaw the Battle of Ideas debating festival were also questioned.

Perks was absent from school during the inspection. Parents were told last month he had left.

In February, Perks was quoted in articles on UnHerd and The Telegraph vowing to ignore official government advice that secondary pupils wear face coverings in the classroom.

He said doing so would put a “psychological and physical barrier between staff and children that is just destructive”.

But the school quietly reversed its stance following pressure from the government.

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  1. Stephen Smith

    Epitomises the problem with free schools. Some charismatic leader has an idea and sells it. Group think pushes it forward. Then reality sets in and only external inspection identifies the real problems that everyone ignored. There’s a reason why other schools take a more accepted approach; it works.

  2. Viorel Patriche

    I have paid my taxes, trusted that my child will receive an adequate education. After two years of continuously failure teaching, I’m receiving a report of some inspection.
    How is that supposed to make me feel better? Who is going to give my son’s back the two failed years? With 4 different teachers in a semester at German classes, my son can’t even count until 20 in German. And many, many other examples. Who is responsible for the fact that all these children, supposedly at their life start journey, they are still confused about how? where? when? what? they will choose in life? But thug life on the streets of the East London? When we as parents, we’re going to call in court the government, asking for answers, but even so, my two years of failed education from my son’s life are irrecuperable.