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
  • 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

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...

Guru Careers: Product Training Specialist / Software Trainer

£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...

Recruitment Genius: Unqualified NVQ Assessors - Health, Social Care & Management

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence