Michael Gove’s free schools programme received the latest in a series of embarrassing setbacks today, as a secondary school that the education secretary has close links to was heavily criticised by Ofsted.
The Greenwich Free School “requires improvement” according to a report which condemns its teaching, pupil achievement and leadership for being below the required standard.
The news could be particularly awkward for Mr Gove (pictured) as the flagship school was co-founded by his senior policy adviser, Tim Shinner, and Jonathan Simons, head of education Policy Exchange, a think-tank the education secretary helped set up.
Among the problems uncovered by Ofsted at the South East London secondary are some lessons where “teachers do not set challenging enough work for the most able students” and “teachers [who] do not ensure that students complete tasks to a high enough standard”.
Last year Mr Gove praised the school – which says it insists on “the very highest standards” - for having “a group of teachers determined to prove that every child can succeed if given a classical liberal education”.
But the inspectors found that “disabled students and those with special educational needs were failing to make acceptable progress in English and mathematics”. “Students eligible for pupil premium funding were also reported to have made insufficient progress in English, as had some students who had attained well at primary school,” their report reads.
It is the latest in a succession of bad news for the government’s flagship schools policy. Four other free schools have already judged not good enough by Ofsted. Discovery New School in West Sussex and the secondary side of Al-Madinah Free School in Derby are being closed, and the Kings Science Academy in Bradford is the subject of a police investigation into alleged fraud.
IES Breckland in Suffolk, the first free school run by a for-profit company, was placed into special measures in March.
Earlier this month it was reported that a leaked Department for Education document showed that it wanted to tackle problems at struggling free schools before Ofsted made them public because the “political ramifications of any more free schools being judged inadequate are very high and speedy intervention is essential”.
The Greenwich Free School inspection took place at the start of February and found that of the four main categories only pupil behaviour and safety merited a “good” rating.
A month later Policy Exchange published a report, co-authored by Mr Simons, calling for a radical overhaul of Ofsted’s inspection regime.