Dixons Trinity Academy, Bradford, is the first secondary free school to be judged Outstanding.
Inspectors praised the academy for its “exceptional leadership”; staff “dedication and professionalism” and “good use of partnerships”.
The Academy is sponsored by the Dixons Multi Academy Trust whose support was significant in supporting the school’s development, Ofsted wrote. Inspectors noted the academy’s senior leaders had been recruited from within the Dixons group – this suggests they had the necessary experience before being expected to run a school. Luke Sparkes, the headteacher, was previously assistant principal at Dixons Allerton.
Bedford Free School
by ex-schools minister Lord Hill before it even opened. He said he hoped to see it become a “successful flagship for the Free Schools programme”. When Education Secretary Michael Gove visited he cited an unpublished report from Department for Education “experts” which said teaching was of “a strong quality
But Ofsted didn’t agree: the school Requires Improvement. Teaching is not “consistently good” although it had improved since September 2013. The number of exclusions had “reduced significantly”. This raises the question about how many pupils had earlier been excluded if the number was high enough to reduce “significantly”.
Inspectors said leadership was good and leadership of teaching had improved since September 2013 when an assistant headteacher was appointed. This again raises a question: if leadership of teaching has improved this academy year, what was it like in the school’s first year?
On the first anniversary of the opening of Bedford Free School, its principal Mark Lehain wrote on Conservative Home
about the “incredible academic progress” made by pupils. But Ofsted did not agree:
“Students do not sustain good progress within and between subjects often enough.”
The “incredible “progress, based on Key Stage 3 teacher assessments, was further thrown into doubt when inspectors said teacher assessments were “sometimes too generous”.
The Impact Assessment
for Bedford Free School said the school would have a moderate to high impact on four neighbouring schools and warned that even if a small number of pupils went to Bedford Free School it could “threaten the long-term viability of these schools”.
In a blog reproduced by the New Schools Network
, the taxpayer-funded charity which helps free school proposers, Lehain defended schools opening where there are already surplus places. Local provision might not be “appropriate or of sufficient quality”, he wrote. It would be back to the bad old days when LAs managed supply, he warned, if local authorities (LAs) decided where new schools were needed.
But LAs are supposed to manage school place supply by law – you might expect a headteacher to know that.
NOTE: All Ofsted reports downloadable from Ofsted website.