The Government and the taxpayer-funded charity which promotes free schools, the New Schools Network, like to boast how many more free schools are outstanding than local authority maintained schools. This is despite the number of inspected free schools being too small to come to any conclusion.
However, if the Government and NSN want to use small samples to ‘prove’ the superiority of one type of school over another, then they should also publicise the proportion of free schools judged Inadequate.
Provisional Ofsted figures* released 16 September 2014 show that 3% of all
schools were judged Inadequate at their last inspection. These figures include schools judged under the old criteria as well as those judged under the revised ones. All free schools have been judged under the new criteria but the Ofsted data doesn’t differentiate between old and new criteria in its ‘last inspection’ figures.
Judged against the ‘last inspection’ figures, how well did free schools do? Ofsted said:
‘By 30 June 2014, Ofsted had conducted 70 inspections of free schools. Sixteen of these were judged outstanding, 31 good, 19 judged as ‘requires improvement’ and four were judged inadequate.’
Four inadequate schools out of 70 is 5% - higher than the 3% of all schools.
But there’s something odd about Ofsted’s figures. There were 71 mainstream free schools inspected up to June 2014. One inspection judgement is missing: the Discovery Free School, judged Inadequate, has closed and isn’t included. If it was included, then the proportion of Inadequate free schools would rise to 7%.
If the trend in removing closed Inadequate free schools from the data continues, this would reduce the proportion of failing free schools. Hartsbrook E-Act Free School, judged Inadequate, has technically closed
– it’s been given a new name, Brook House Primary School, and a new reference number. According to Edubase
, Brook House is not in special measures unlike its predecessor school. If the former Harstbrook E-Act is removed from Ofsted data at a later date, then the proportion of Inadequate free schools would fall to 4%.
Of course, this nit-picking reveals the stupidity of coming to a conclusion based on a small sample – one inadequate or one outstanding judgement can have a disproportionate effect on percentages. But the removal of closed Inadequate free schools from official data could lead to some future misrepresentation.
*Provisional data downloadable here