Free school is not closing, said DfE in August, but DfE school performance tables and Ofsted say it has

Janet Downs's picture
‘The Department for Education has rejected the characterisation of changes at a north London school as a second closure for its flagship free schools programme’

EverythingFreeSchools, 13 August 2014

The denial was in response to my claim that Hartsbrook E-Act Free School, judged Inadequate on all four counts in January 2014, was to be closed and re-opened with a new sponsor, new name and new unique reference number. The consultation accompanying the change had clearly said the replacement for Hartsbrook E-Act Free School would be a new free school opening in September 2014.

But the Department for Education (DfE) rejected my claim. However, the DfE School Performance Tables contradict the DfE’s denial. The table for Hartsbrook E-Act Free School says the school has closed. The table for its replacement, Brook House Primary School, says clearly:

This is a new school opened 01 September 2014

School Performance Tables usually link* to predecessor schools when schools convert to academies despite academies technically being new schools. But there is no such reference on the table for Brook House Primary School - it is designated 'a new school'.

As a ‘new school’, it will not be inspected again until 2015/16. It will not be subject to monitoring like other schools judged Inadequate. Ofsted, too, is clear: Hartsbrook E-Act Free School is closed.

It appears, then, that the closure of Hartsborok E-Act Free Schools is the second** closure for the ‘flagship free schools programme’. But this second closure has happened beneath the radar and hasn’t been widely reported.

ADDENDUM 12.38 Another E-Act free school, Aldborough E-Act, judged Good in February 2013, has also been transferred to another sponsor and changed its name to Aldborough Primary School. But it has not closed in the same way as Hartsbrook E-Act has been closed. School performance tables make no reference to Aldborough E-Act having shut down. Edubase says the school opened in September 2011. Ofsted has changed the name of the school but the report for Aldborough E-Act still stands. So why was it necessary to officially close Hartsbrook E-Act when it wasn't necessary for Aldborough E-Act? A cynic might answer the question thus: Hartsbrook E-Act was Inadequate, closing it reduces the number (and proportion) of failing free schools.

*Example here.

**Discovery New School was the first free school to be closed. The closure of Al-Madinah free school was not a full closure: only its secondary department was closed. It’s still open as a primary school.

NOTE: This is a companion piece to my thread on how reducing the number of Inadequate free schools also lowers the proportion of free schools deemed to be failing (see sidebar).
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Patrick Hadley's picture
Mon, 22/09/2014 - 12:13

Why is Brook House Primary classed as a "Free School" rather than as an "Academy"?

As I understand it "Free Schools" have to be completely new foundations, and not the result of a takeover of an existing school. When an existing school changes its ownership and becomes a fully-taxpayer-funded-independent-school it is given the designation "Academy".

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 22/09/2014 - 13:51

Patrick - strictly speaking, free schools are academies but they're sub-categorised as free schools. Not all free schools were completely new - some were previously independent schools.

Other oddities with the free school designation. The JCB Academy was opened as a the first UTC in September 2010 and designated 'sponsored academy' according to the 2011 school performance tables.

According to the 2012 performance tables, The JCB Academy, designated 'free school - university technical college' was closed.

The 2012 performance tables also lists The JCB Academy, designated 'free school - university technical college' as opening on 1 January 2013 which is odd considering the 2012 performance tables are supposed to related to the academic year 2011/12.

Similarly, the 2012 performance tables list Barnfield Business Studio Academy ('academy - sponsor led') as closed in December 2012 and reopened as 'Barnfield Business and Enterprise Studio, designated 'free school - studio school', in January 2013.

Confused? So am I.

… a third of the total, have been inspected and given judgements so far. That figure excludes two free schools which were judged inadequate before later …

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