One, Robert Owen Academy, closed permanently in August
43% of free schools which entered pupils for GCSEs in 2018 had a negative Progress 8 (P8) score*, Schools Week** reports.
The free school with the lowest negative score (-2.99), Robert Owen Academy in Hereford, closed in August after being judged Inadequate for the second time in November 2016.
Route 39 closed for ‘fresh start’ at end of September
The free school formerly called Route 39 was closed for a ‘fresh start’ at the end of last month. It reopened on 1 October as Atlantic Academy. Route 39 entered none of its 2017 cohort for GCSEs in breach of its statutory duties and funding agreement. The P8 score for 2018 was well below average.
Steiner Academy Exeter threatened with termination
Steiner Academy Exeter was recently threatened with having its funding terminated following concerns about a ‘serious breakdown’ in management and the safety of staff and pupils. Its provisional P8 score was -1.27.
New Schools Network boasts ‘fantastic success’ of free schools
Despite the poor P8 scores for 43% of free schools, Mark Lehain, interim director of the New Schools Network, described the results as ‘a fantastic show of success for free schools.’
It’s true that some free schools have very high P8 scores – their results have increased the average P8 score for free schools making it appear that free schools as a group outperform all types of other schools. Lehain has nothing to say about free schools with low scores nor those that have already closed.
UTCs and studio schools omitted from free school P8 average
UTCs and studio schools, also types of free schools, aren’t included in calculating the average P8 score for free schools. To include them would be to drag down the average. But UTCs and studio schools are often included in the number of open free schools by the Department for Education (DfE) - another statistical sleight of hand which has been criticised by the UK Statistics Authority.
Not possible to come to definite conclusion about free schools as a group
Given the wide variation in results from free schools, it’s not possible to come to a definite conclusion about the performance of free schools as a group. Just 77 free schools (excluding UTCs and studio schools) entered pupils for GCSEs in 2018. Department for Education statisticians warn this is too small a sample to draw any kind of conclusion. Data about free schools should, therefore, be used with caution.
COMING SOON - fun facts about the top ten P8 schools.
*based on provisional GCSE results published this week
**Subscribers’ edition 154, page 19