Michael Gove under pressure to tighten monitoring as Al-Madinah free school is labelled as 'dysfunctional'

The shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said Ofsted report showed Education Secretary's free schools programme had become 'out of control ideological experiment'

Education Editor

The Government's flagship free schools programme was branded a "dangerous free-for-all" and an "out of control ideological experiment" by Labour's Shadow Education Secretary in the Commons today.

Tristram Hunt was responding to an inspectors' report on the Al-Madinah Muslim free school in Derby which claimed that the school was "dysfunctional".

"Far from an isolated incident, the failings at this school reveal the systemic threat to education standards under this Government," he said.. It was, he argued "a devastating blow to the Education Secretary's flagship policy".

"It is not just Al-Madinah school which is dysfunctional," he added. "It is the Education Secretary's free schools policy."

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the association of Teachers and Lecturers, added: "This issue goes beyond this particular school and reveals the dangers inherent in Michael Gove's free school programme - children's educations are suffering and the Secretary of State must provide answers as to why his policy has so few safeguards in place."

However, Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking to BBC Radio Derby, said the report by education standards watchdog Ofsted should not be used "as a stick with which to beat the whole free school movement". He said that free schools - on average - had more "outstanding" and "good" ratings than the rest of the sector.

Yesterday's report declared the school, for four to 18-year-olds, was "inadequate" in every category inspected. It concluded: "The school is in chaos and reliant on the goodwill of an interim principal to prevent it totally collapsing."

Dr Stuart Wilson, the interim principal who has been in charge of the school since the beginning of term, said he accepted the findings of the report, adding that the school had "a whole range of problems" which were beginning to be tackled.

The report said governors had "failed to ensure children are safe in the school". "They have also failed to appoint staff with appropriate skills, knowledge and experience and to adequately monitor the work of the school properly," it added.

However, it cleared the school of allegations that it had been discriminating against girls by placing them at the back of the class.

Answering an urgent question from Mr Hunt in the House of Commons, Schools Minister David Laws said the Government had been "very clear" with the school's Trust that it must take action and that failure to do so would result in its funding being axed - effectively leading to its closure.

"We will not let any school, whether a free school, an academy school or a local authority school, languish in failure," he told MPs.

Jonathan Simons, head of education at Policy Exchange - a think-tank with close links to Mr Gove, said: "Free schools must not be protected from the system of clear accountability which we rightly expect all other publically funded schools to work within.

"The Ofsted report into Al-Madinah is appalling and supporters as well as opponents of free schools should be demanding action to address its failures. However, this individual case should not be used as a stick to beat the free schools programme with."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor