'Not good': Ofsted gives a mixed verdict on education reforms in major setback for Michael Gove

Substantial improvements needed in three of the first nine free schools to be inspected, yet Government is pushing ahead with hundreds more

Michael Gove's flagship education project has been dealt an embarrassing blow after inspectors demanded that three of the new wave of "free schools" must improve their teaching, leadership and pupil performance. In the first official verdict on the Education Secretary's free schools programme, Ofsted inspectors have ruled that three of the first nine institutions to be examined are "not good" schools.

The "requires improvements" judgement handed down to Batley Grammar School in Yorkshire, Sandbach School in Cheshire and Kings Science Academy in Bradford is the third-lowest of the four possible grades that Ofsted can give – one above the "inadequate" rating. Each school now faces another full-scale inspection within the next two years.

Labour said the "worrying" judgement blew a hole in the Government's pledge that the semi-independent schools, set up by interest groups including parents, charities and businesses, would improve educational standards for thousands of young people. Union leaders complained that any council-run schools given such low grades "would be closed down or forced to accept academy status". The shadow Education Secretary, Stephen Twigg, said: "Michael Gove promised that his free schools programme would raise standards, but the early signs will worry parents. He needs to focus on driving up school quality in those areas which just aren't good enough."

Mr Gove has consistently claimed that free schools will improve the performance and opportunities of children in England and Wales, telling MPs earlier this month that the schools were "making a significant difference in driving up standards in every part of the country".

David Cameron yesterday said many more free schools were in the pipeline, as he called on the education system "to be like the pushiest, most sharp-elbowed, ambitious parent there is". The Prime Minister claimed his Government was taking on "a left-wing establishment that had bargain-basement expectations of millions of children".

Twenty-four free schools, all state funded but semi-independent and run by "education providers", opened their doors in the first wave of the new institutions in 2011. More than 50 more followed in 2012, and more than 100 have been authorised to open from this year onwards.

Although teaching unions complained they are "undemocratic and a huge waste of public money", the Department for Education (DfE) insisted the new institutions would address specific needs in different parts of the country. Nine free schools have been visited since Ofsted began inspecting the first wave of the institutions in January. Six free schools inspected were labelled "good", with Woodpecker Hall Academy in London graded "outstanding" for the achievement, behaviour and safety of its pupils.

But Batley Grammar, Sandbach School and Kings Science Academy were all judged to require improvements in the key areas of teaching quality, leadership and management and pupil achievement. Inspectors said Kings Science Academy must improvements in all four main categories, after criticising its teaching, leadership and the length of the school day.

Batley Grammar, previously a fee-paying independent school, was praised for the headteacher's leadership and said improved teaching quality, but inspectors added: "Teaching has not been consistently good enough over time in the secondary phase and the sixth form, especially in English and mathematics. Too little teaching is outstanding. When the free school opened, leaders and governors lacked data about pupils' performance. As a result, target-setting and checks on progress were not fit for purpose." Improvements demanded included increasing the proportion of good and outstanding teaching.

Ofsted criticised Sandbach School because the achievement of pupils was "inconsistent", marking was "variable" and the school "has had an overgenerous view of its performance". Its report added: "Plans for improvement are not sharply focused on addressing areas for improvement. As a result, the school has not acted swiftly enough to tackle some areas of weakness, such as science."

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the reports "put paid to the idea that free schools or academies run by sponsors are axiomatically best placed to deliver education". She added: "It is dreadful that schools which the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary constantly trumpet as being better than local authority-maintained schools are failing through ill-thought-out and hastily implemented policies."

A DfE spokesman said six of the nine free schools inspected were rated as "good", which was "a brilliant achievement when these schools have been open just over a year".

He added: "Where Ofsted found that a minority 'require improvement', we are confident that the right steps are being taken. Nearly all the free schools which have opened so far have been heavily oversubscribed."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Do you think you are read...

Cover Supervisor

£60 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The JobSeveral cover supervisors ...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£55 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking special needs...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Sheffield: MFL teacher Required in Don...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game