Ofsted itself must bear some of the responsibility for what has happened at Al-Madinah, the school it now says is "dysfunctional".
Ofsted has to do pre-registration checks
on free schools*. These checks are supposed to ascertain how far the school complies to regulations governing independent schools** although curriculum and teaching are exempt from these pre-opening checks.Ofsted is supposed to answer Yes to the following questions and recommend that the school opens
"YES. This school is likely to meet all regulations and national minimum standards when it opens and is recommended for registration."
"YES: The school can be registered and allowed to open on receipt by DfE of evidence of improvement in relation to the following matters: [presumably Ofsted lists those areas which need improving]"Al-Madinah must have been cleared by Ofsted for the school to be allowed to open
If Ofsted listed any concerns which required improvement then documentation should have been received by the DfE before opening. This raises the following questions:
1 What concerns, if any, did Ofsted have?
2 Was Al-Madinah asked to provide "evidence of improvement" relating to these concerns?
3 Did the DfE receive this evidence?
4 If not, did the DfE chase up the evidence?
5 If any required evidence was still missing at the time of the DfE monitoring inspection, did the DfE check it?
Free school supporters say Al-Medinah should not be used as a stick to beat the free school programme. But as Laura McInerny
points out, the situation was entirely predictable:"The gaping and problematic holes in the free schools policy have been apparent ever since Michael Gove pushed through the free school legislation in a 5-day procedure usually reserved for terrorist threats, and anyone pretending otherwise is being disingenuous."
*Thanks to Roger Titcombe for reminding me about Ofsted pre-registration checks. Thanks also to Rosie Fergusson for providing the link to Laura McInerny's article.
**Free schools, UTCs, Studio Schools and academies are defined as "independent schools".