Many observers of the education debate have noted the behaviour of Ofsted’s head man Michael Wilshaw, and wondered whether he is just a little too close to Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove. Wilshaw’s latest diversionary exercise will only serve to reinforce the thought, as he has talked of “unseen” children being failed by indifferent teaching in otherwise well-off areas.
The idea he has floated, that it is possible for schools that have been inspected and rated “outstanding” to be failing some pupils, and that this means they should be re-inspected and have one or more centrally recruited “national service” teachers dispatched to deal with their newly discovered shortcomings, may raise more than a few eyebrows. The thought also occurs that this may be a mere smokescreen.
That is because all is clearly not well with the Free Schools programme, so energetically promoted by Gove and his cheerleaders. As Ofsted continues its round of inspections, the 81Free Schools already opened are being included, and so far the results are less than stellar: none of the eleven inspected has warranted an “outstanding” rating. Three have received “requires improvement” notices.
And now the Discovery Free School, in Crawley, whose opening had Gove telling “These schools are opening because of demand from parents for a new or different type of education. Free schools offer a genuine alternative. They offer smaller class sizes, longer hours and higher standards”, has scored an “Inadequate” rating, and the comment “This is a school that requires special measures”.
The report makes grim reading: “Arrangements for assessing pupils’ progress in reading, writing and mathematics are inadequate ... The headteacher lacks the skills and knowledge to improve teaching ... too many pupils are in danger of leaving the school without being able to read and write properly ... senior leaders believe the school is far better than it is ... governance is inadequate”.
There are indications that all was known not to be well before Ofsted arrived: “Inspectors also considered ... issues raised through several complaints submitted to Ofsted prior to the inspection ... No school improvement plan was available for inspectors to scrutinise ... the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure ... improvement”.
Had the Discovery Free School been a local authority maintained school in, say, Merseyside, Gove and his retinue of polecats would have been down on it like the proverbial ton of bricks. But it is only because of the deeply subversive Guardian that we know about it. And, even then, there is Michael Wilshaw wibbling on about “outstanding” schools having to be re-inspected on a whim.
Children’s education, inexpertly fouled up by those who shout loudest. Not clever.