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free schools – more quality control required?

16 October 2013

Reports show that the Shadow Education Minister has written to Michael Gove about how underperformance in free schools is monitored. The letter follows the well-publicised concerns about the Islamic free school in Derby which was temporarily closed during an Ofsted inspection. The result of that closure was that the pupils missed out on educational provision due to a lack of basic safeguarding requirements. The DfE response highlighted the swift action taken by Ofsted and the DfE once problems were known.

Whilst free schools are a key government policy aimed at increasing choice and raising standards in education, for such schools to achieve that aim there needs to be a clear process of accountability where education or other standards put pupils at risk. Whilst the approval process may have become increasingly rigorous, there also needs to be greater scrutiny in the first few years of operation to ensure the free school is effective and making a positive contribution to the aim of bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots.

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