The failure of Al-Madinah School in Derby - which has been strongly criticised in a report by schools inspectorate for England Ofsted - is not down to the free school programme. It is down to the fact that all those involved have created an institution that is not good enough. As a headteacher of an outstanding academy, who has just opened a free school in Chester and also works as an Ofsted inspector, I am mystified as to why the media feel that this school failed because it was part of a programme that they suggest is somehow aimed at undermining education. Free schools are a vital part of cultural change. For too long mediocrity has been accepted, satisfactory has been OK. Outstanding education is a right and not a privilege, and the free school programme aims to break up the divide between state and private education, ensuring that all parents have a choice of outstanding provision for their children. The question to be asked is not why did this school fail but why aren't all schools outstanding? If this was the case we would not need free schools and education would be a truly open-access resource that allowed everyone the chance to excel.
Steve Docking, Director of St Martin's Academy Chester, headteacher of the Delamere Church of England Academy, Ofsted inspector.