The notoriety surrounding Al-Madinah and the Discovery New School seems to have bypassed Hartstbrook E-Act Free School. Ofsted judged it Inadequate
on all four counts in January 2014.
The free school was opened in September 2012 by E-Act, an established academy chain, and was partnered by the independent Highgate School. The academy trust, despite its avowed experience in running schools, only started providing support to the free school shortly before Ofsted arrived 16 months after opening. The school’s leaders were inexperienced and in ‘urgent need’ of additional support, said inspectors. But E-Act had failed to provide it.
Hartsbrook E-Act Free School promised to provide an ‘outstanding’ education. This claim remained on the school’s website even after the Inadequate judgement and was only removed after Advertising Standards
intervened. However, the school
still claims to be ‘blossoming’, ‘dynamic and vibrant’.
A monitoring report in June said the current sponsor, E-Act, had [belatedly] provided ‘high level’ support but Hartsbrook, along with ten other E-Act academies, will be handed to another sponsor. A focussed inspection of E-Act academies in March 2014 found the overwhelming proportion of pupils in E-Act academies was not receiving a good education
. At the same time, the Education Funding Agency (EFA) found E-Act had been operating in a ‘culture of extravagant expenses
Hartsbrook E-Act’s new sponsor is the Lion Academies Trust which is supposed to be taking over the school in September. A local newspaper
reported the school will reopen with a new name and brand. But there’s no information about the change on the websites of the school
or the academy trust
. However, a separate consultation website
says Hartsbrook will become a ‘new free school’ in September.
In other words, Hartsbrook E-Act will be closed. It will be the second free school to close entirely although it’s the first one to be replaced by a ‘new free school’. If it’s ‘new’ then it’s likely it won’t be inspected until the academic year 2015/16 – in its second year. Monitoring inspections of the ‘closed’ Inadequate school will stop.
Does this case signal an emerging trend? Will other free schools judged Inadequate be similarly ‘closed’?
And if an Inadequate free school no longer exists, then presumably it won’t appear in statistics about open free schools. The proportion judged Inadequate would fall and the DfE could claim: ‘Free schools less likely to be judged inadequate than council run schools’.
Which is what might happen if Inadequate free schools cease to exist.