Pressure on Government as flagship free school forced to close after inspectors find pupils 'in danger of leaving without being able to read and write properly'

Funding withdrawn for Discovery New School in Crawley after it failed to show evidence it could improve

Education Editor

The Government has been forced to close one of its flagship free schools after inspectors warned that “too many pupils are in danger of leaving the school without being able to read and write properly.”

Schools Minister Lord Nash, who is responsible for academies and free schools, announced he was withdrawing funding from the Discovery New School in Crawley, West Sussex, after it had failed to show sufficient evidence it could improve following the inspection.

He gave governors 10 days to come up with an action plan to turn the school round at the end of November but in a letter to the school yesterday said there had been “little or no improvement” in standards since the first inspection.

“I recognise that my decision to terminate the FA [funding agreement] is likely to be disappointing for pupils, parents and all those involved with the school but I will not allowing a failing school to continue with no clear, workable plan to improve rapidly,” he added.

“It is not in the best interests of pupils to remain in an adequate school.”

The decision comes at the end of a week of growing pressure on Education Secretary Michael Gove over his free schools programme. On Wednesday, public spending watchdogs the National Audit Office warned it was now costing - at £6.6million per school - twice the Government’s original estimate to set up the schools. In addition, half the areas in the country with the greatest need for extra primary school places had not had a single application for a new school.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said last night: “The closure of this free school is yet another shocking example of why David Cameron’s flagship schools policy is failing.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, added: “The NUT takes no pleasure in the news that the Discovery Free School is to close.

“When a school closes it is the children who suffer and their education that is affected. There will be many worried parents in the run-up to Christmas concerned about what this means for their child’s education.”

Meanwhile, it emerged last night that - despite the school adopting the Montessori child-centred development teaching methods - Montessori was refused permission to oversee the introduction of its teaching methods.

Philip Bujak, chief executive of Montessori, said: “We are saddened to hear of the impending closure of Discovery Montessori Free School.

“There was a clear case where we at Montessori advised the DfE... to allow us to oversee the implementation of the Montessori element and curriculum to ensure taxpayers’ money was protected and parents received the genuine article.

“That advice was ignored and the net result is the waste of a large amount of money, the name of Montessori tarnished through ignorance and a large number of parents very badly let down.”

The Discovery New School was in the first batch of 24 free schools to be approved by ministers after taking office.

A primary school with 65 children on its roll, it embraces the Montessori method of teaching - which stresses that children's innate inquisitive nature should be nurtured, rather than using a top-down approach of testing.

In its original inspection of the school, education standards watchdog Ofsted found that unless standards of reading and writing improved “pupils are unlikely to flourish in their secondary school and future lives”.

It added: “The headteacher lacks the skills and knowledge to improve teaching. Too much teaching is inadequate and the headteacher has an over-optimistic view of its quality.

“Teachers’ expectations of the quality of pupils’ writing are too low. Unfinished, untidy, writing, with inaccurate spelling and incorrectly formed letters is the norm in too many pupils’ books.”

In addition, only two of the school’s five teachers are understood to have been qualified teachers. A follow-up visit months later led lead inspector John Seal to declare pupils’ work was still marked “erratically and some work seen during the inspection was not marked at all.”

Lord Nash made it clear funding for the school would cease from April and said the DfE had been in close contact with West Sussex County Council about providing alternative places for the pupils.

Mr Gove also suffered another blow yesterday when a plan to set up a new state boarding school in the West Sussex countryside for inner city children from Stockwell in South London was turned down by the local planning authority.

The Durand Education Trust, which already runs a primary school academy in south London, is planning to set up the school for 375 secondary school pupils with the support of £17 million grant aid from the Department for Education.

However, the South Downs National Park Authority said the scheme was too big and its impact on the environment would be “inappropriate”.

The academy said it had "no doubt” that the project would eventually go ahead.

A statement of Discovery New School’s website said staff, governors, parents and children were “deeply disappointed that Lord Nash has refused to give us the opportunity to continue as a free school”.

It said its improvement plan was “credible and strong” and would deliver change quickly.

The DfE declined to comment.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Reception Teacher - Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates of pay : Randstad Education Gro...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam