Andrew Marr Show: Gove praises free school which requires improvement

Janet Downs's picture
Education Secretary Michael Gove was on the Andrew Marr show this morning.  Marr asked him about unqualified teachers in free schools and cited Al-Madinah where Ofsted had criticised the use of unqualified teachers.

Gove’s justification was that independent schools didn’t have to employ qualified teachers.  And some of these were now  free schools.

One such “nationalised” independent school, he said, was Batley Grammar School.

But Ofsted* judged Batley Grammar School as “Requires Improvement”.   In Ofstedspeak this means it’s not good enough.  Yet Gove cited Batley as a great example of a type of school which doesn’t use qualified teachers.

Two of the five ex-independent schools which became free schools, the Maharishi Free School and Barnfields Moorlands Free School, were judged “Good “ by Ofsted*.  Three were judged “Requires Improvement”: Batley Grammar School, Sandbach School and The Priors School.

Gove said Al-Madinah was indeed a failing school – it had been set up by “idealistic” people who’d got it wrong.  The same presumably can be said of Kings Science Academy and Discovery New School – two first-wave free schools censured for their financial arrangements by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) (see here and here).  But Gove refuses to take any blame for allowing such “idealists” to be given public money to set up a pet project.

Free schools set up in 2011 and inspected under the tougher Ofsted regime were doing better than other types of school inspected during the same time, Gove said.  Leave aside the fact that 24 is too small a sample on which to base a comparison, Gove’s forgotten that inspections of other schools contained a large proportion previously judged “Satisfactory” or “Inadequate”. 

Gove also said new local authority (LA) schools established at about the same time as first-wave free schools had fared worse  – fewer of them were “Good” or better.  But it’s proving difficult to get this information from the Department for Education (DfE).  I submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) request for names of  LA schools opened in September 2011 and whether they had been subject to Ofsted inspections.

The response rightly told me I could get inspection reports from the Ofsted website.  But school names are required to search for reports and I haven't got this vital information.  The DfE told me I could get the names from Edubase.  Much information on Edubase is publicly available and easily searched by name of school.  But more advanced searches require subscription.  I would have to sign an agreement saying I would not disseminate information to a third party before I could subscribe.  This would prevent any publication of the data on this site.  I would also only be allowed two free searches in any academic year before having to pay.  Prices start at £3000pa. 

I have told the DfE I think its demands are unreasonable and to put the information in the public domain as requested.  I am waiting for a response.


*Citing Ofsted judgements does not imply agreement
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