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A mixed outlook for free schools: One outstanding, four requiring improvement and the West London Free School expecting “good”

Yesterday, England’s education secretary Michael Gove issued a missive trumpeting the fact that Ark Conway Primary Academy was the first free school to be given an outstanding rating by schools inspectorate Ofsted.

But on the same day Mr Gove was applauding the West London school, the fourth free school so far was handed a “requires improvement” judgement .

The Birmingham-based Nishkam Free School, which describes itself as a multi-faith primary with a Sikh ethos, was given the rating following its inspection last month and will now be revisited by the watchdog within two years.

“Teaching does not enable all pupils to make good progress because work is not always set at the right level,” the school’s report said. “In particular, more-able pupils do not make good progress because they are frequently given work which is too easy.”

Nishkam joins Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire, Sandbach School in Cheshire and Kings Science Academy in Bradford in the category, according to Ofsted.

And the Discovery New School in West Sussex was last month placed in special measures after inspectors judged the school to be inadequate.

So far 13 free schools from the first wave in 2011 have been inspected: one was deemed outstanding and seven good, four were handed “requires improvement” and one was slapped with an inadequate rating.

Mr Gove hailed the achievements of the free schools, stating: “Free Schools, set up by dedicated groups of individuals and organisations, are raising standards and giving parents a real choice of good local schools. More and more free schools are opening and I look forward to many more being rated outstanding over the coming years.”

Meanwhile, perhaps the most famous free school of them all, the West London Free School, set up by author and journalist Toby Young, is believed to have been given a “good with outstanding features” rating by inspectors.

The official report into the school is expected to be released imminently.

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