Free schools are great…says chair of free school slammed by Ofsted

The Policy Exchange report was conveniently released on the day David Cameron announced 49 new free schools


The author of a report which praised the government’s free schools policy is himself the chair of governors at a free school which was judged by Ofsted to “require improvement”.

Jonathan Simons, who authored a report for Policy Exchange (released yesterday) which lavished praise on former education secretary Michael Gove’s flagship free schools policy, is the chair of governors at Greenwich Free School. According to the most recent report from Ofsted, the school’s leadership and governors were not taking effective action to tackle issues relating to teaching at the school.

“Too few students make good progress across the different subjects”, according to Ofsted. “In addition, disabled students and those with special educational needs are not achieving the standards they are capable of in English and mathematics,” it added.

Meanwhile, students eligible for pupil premium funding were reported to have made insufficient progress in English, as had some students who had attained well at primary school.

Despite inspectors being told by the school that students had made outstanding progress since attending, the report said that “inspectors do not agree with the leadership team’s view that every aspect of the school is outstanding”.

Prior to its Ofsted inspection, former education secretary Michael Gove regularly praised Greenwich Free School as an example of the free schools policy working.

“Our free schools policy is giving even more teachers the chance to make a difference where it matters. Whether it’s…a group of teachers determined to prove that every child can succeed … like the team behind Greenwich Free School,” Gove said in 2013.

He also said last year that “Educational innovation has a new generation of heroes and heroines in…the team behind the Greenwich Free School.”

The Policy Exchange report was conveniently released on the same day that David Cameron announced 49 new free schools and committed to opening 500 more.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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11 Responses to “Free schools are great…says chair of free school slammed by Ofsted”

  1. damon

    Given how uneducated much of our population is, it seems like schools have been failing children for generations. Why have tabloid newspapers been so much more popular than broadsheets?
    Becauuse that’s the level of the greater majority. Surely it doesn’t have to be that way.
    I’m all for experiments in education. What we have had in the past has largely failed imo.
    A country whose favourite TV programmes are the pap that we get on Saturday evenings, is not a well educated one.

  2. Cole

    A shame we’re wasting money – for ideological reasons – on ‘free’ schools rather than focussing on improving standards.

  3. Guest

    No, we don’t “have” to allow a free press. And you’re all for wasting vast sums of cash on expensive schools which will, like those in other countries, fail.

    The problem is constant top-down changes and “experiments” rather than looking at what works in other countries, like, oh, Finland. As you turn your nose up at entertainment for Le Masses.

  4. damon

    One of the greatest things we could do to bring up standards in schools would be to have a zero tolerance approach to disruptive behaviour. And that would include the modern ”yooof culture” of speaking like absolute morons with that ”urban multicultural English” that has replaced the original accents in places like London.
    If you talk like Ali G you’re going to reduce your chances of getting a good rounded education.
    There’s probably psychological aspects to that. The moronic way of speaking restricts the cognitive functions of the brain I’d guess.

  5. sarntcrip

    .free schools are little mire than a middleclass hobby fad muddying the waters they cannot be accurately compared to proper schools because frees choolsasrestupidly not required to teach the national curriculum often opened in areas where they aren’t needed meaning they are an astronomic WASTE OF MONEY

  6. Guest

    Ah yes, a zero-brains approach, just what’s needed. Make sure that school is detested and despised, and that idiotic draconian rules which target Islamic communities make sure that it’s downright the enemy, that kids will not feel safe – spending their times dealing with your many jobsworth “language controllers” instead – and hence will be utterly unable to learn!

    AliG makes lot of money, but you can’t stand that either can you.
    There’s certainly some psychological aspects to your twittering, and offence at someone outside the 1% making money. Oh, and your totalitarian and anti-education tactics.

  7. Faerieson

    Except of course, whilst Ali G may be extremely amusing, he is not a real person. Sacha Baron Cohen does not talk like this. So, your argument is, at best, based upon something of a misconception.

    I, also, have little respect for this aparent ‘wealth is invariably correct’ mentality. But unpicking the potential solutions from the government-endorsed problems is going to require a great deal of genuinely independant thinking… and good luck with soon prising the education football free from political talons.

  8. Guest

    Of course that’s a good part of it – his entire argument is based on a mock accent! Misconception is demon’s and his “ban kids with the wrong sort of accent from school” nonsense being credible in the first place!

    And falling results are going to create a big impetus for change – Gove’s disastrous time bomb in education is ticking.

  9. Phil Kelly

    We know what works in school improvement: London Challenge – inaugurated by Andrew Adonis as Schools Minister – has vastly improved standards in the Capital, where schools face huge challenges. Schools co-operate with each other, and LEAs, with a shared agenda on teaching and school management and fact based recording of pupils’ progress and what works. What doesn’t work is faddish beliefs that free schools, Academy companies or other structural tweaks can solve the problems

  10. Mike Stallard

    Free Schools are not free and cannot be free.
    A free school admits who it likes, teaches what it likes and tests how it likes. That is why it is called a free school.
    Sort of like Eton or St Paul’s, or wherever the politicians of every single party send their own precious little ones. They work very well and cost a lot of money – £37,000 for boarding, £12000 for day per annum. (Average national annual salary: £25,000 p.a.) If they do not work well, they close.
    But do taxpayers want to support a Madrasah teaching only the Koran and hatred and terrorism?
    The result is that Free Schools are tightly controlled by the central government as opposed to the local councils. Very tightly controlled. And they are not free at all.

  11. Guest

    Except for the little facts about paid schools converting into taxpayer funded ones, the lax oversight of the government, etc.

    But hey, apart from the facts of the matter…

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