Durham Free School, one of the government’s state-funded schools outside of local authority control, has been forced to close after being rated inadequate by Ofsted.
Shortly after, Grindon Hall, a free school in Sunderland, was judged by Ofsted to require urgent improvements. Ofsted criticised the school, which is a Christian faith school, for failing to teach its pupils about diversity of race, religion and sexuality in British society. They also found that the school was not tackling “prejudice-based bullying” or pupils’ use of racist and homophobic language.
The free school programme, as with academies, means state funds are funneled into schools that are not accountable in any way to local authorities or local people. Figures released by the Department for Education show that the 4,400 academies in England held cash reserves of £2.47 billion at the end of the last financial year, more than £500,000 per school. The remaining 18,700 local authority schools only held £2.18 billion.
Judgements by Ofsted, who are themselves unaccountable, should not be used to attack and close schools. Free schools and academies judged to be “failing” should be taken back into local authority control, not closed or passed to another private provider.
Significant state money is being held in academies, draining the education system of funds that could be spent on learning.