Gove's bid to limit fallout from failing free schools

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Gove's bid to limit fallout from failing free schools

#1  Postby HomerJay » Apr 07, 2014 10:37 am

Struggling free schools have been earmarked for special fast-track attention by the government because of the potential for serious political embarrassment for education secretary, Michael Gove, if they should fail, according to leaked documents seen by the Observer.

Gove's flagship policy of allowing groups to set up schools outside the supervision of local education authorities has been the subject of a barrage of bad publicity in recent months. Four free schools have been declared inadequate by Sir Michael Wilshaw's Ofsted, with one of those, the Discovery New School in Crawley, West Sussex, closing down last week.

The leaked document shows that the Department for Education wants to tackle the problems at inadequate free schools before their failings are made public by Ofsted, at which point they can be used as political ammunition. It suggests that party political considerations are now driving education policy a year ahead of the general election, provoking one union leader to claim that the public would be "appalled".

The revelation is in a 40-page document prepared for academies minister Lord Nash ahead of a meeting on 19 March with senior civil servants at the department for education. In the document, which deals with the accountability of free schools and academies, it is proposed that ministers will monitor free schools through private education advisers and be responsible for making key early decisions on tackling problems because of the risk of major political fallout further down the road.

In contrast, turning around failing community schools is often a protracted process requiring Ofsted to make a ruling that they are inadequate before concerted action is taken. Around 350 such schools have been in special measures for more than a year.

The document, entitled Future Academy System: Lord Nash session, also highlights problems that new free schools are facing, despite ministers' public stance being that the programme is proving a success. It says: "Experience has shown us that free schools in their first years of operation are different from other open academies, and face problems that are often not educational in origin. ... ee-schools
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