The Prime Minister has defended the decision to close Crawley’s Discovery New School, saying it would have been wrong to let its problems “rumble on”.
David Cameron was in Crawley this morning (Thursday January 23) to meet staff at Vent Axia, in Fleming Way, congratulating the firm on its decision to bring industry back to the UK from abroad – a move which will create up to 35 jobs.
Before flying out of Gatwick to address the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Mr Cameron was given a tour of Vent Axia and said Crawley was “leading the way” when it came to helping restore Britain’s economic fortunes.
He added: “I’m using Vent Axia as an example of something I will be talking about [in Switzerland] which is businesses bringing back to the UK production that had previously been taken overseas and tried out elsewhere.
“I think with the low tax rates we have, a highly trained workforce and an apprenticeship programme, these are all reasons for people to bring jobs, investment and growth back to Britain – and here at Vent Axia that’s exactly what they are doing.
“Somewhere between 20 and 35 jobs are coming back to Crawley and this is a far more wider trend happening in the UK that we want to encourage.
“It won’t happen automatically. The Government is cutting taxes, making it easier to employ people, backing business and restoring Britain’s economic fortunes – that’s what it’s all about.
“Crawley is leading the way.”
After the tour, Mr Cameron commented on the failings which led to the Government’s decision to order the Discovery New School to close.
The school, in Broadfield – the first Free School in Crawley – was placed in special measures last year by Ofsted.
Despite attempts to make changes to the running of the school, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash, was not satisfied with an action plan submitted in December.
As a result, the school was told to close on April 4.
Mr Cameron said: “I think it’s right to step in quickly when school’s aren’t performing properly and that’s exactly what’s happened at Discovery Free School.
“I think we should be clear, the Free School programme as a whole is a massive success story.
“Seventy-five per cent of Free Schools are either excellent or good. That is higher than the percentage for ordinary maintained schools and that’s pretty remarkable when you think Free Schools have only been going for a couple of years.
“We’re determined that, if a Free School fails, we will not – like too many local authorities – let that happen year after year.
“We will step in quickly and, if necessary, close it.
“And that’s what happened with Discovery Free School.”
When asked whether more could have been done to pick up on problems at the school sooner, Mr Cameron insisted it was “better to act quickly” in such cases.
He added: “There are always lessons to learn because any school that is not succeeding is, by definition, not a success and we need to learn lessons as to why that’s the case and I’m sure Michael Gove will do that.
“But the most important thing is to not let these things linger. There are many schools that are not performing properly in local authorities that are left, tragically, for too long.
“I think, in this case, the Government stepped in quite rightly quickly and sorted it out.”
Regarding the parents left trying to find new schools for their children, he said: “Obviously parents will get assistance from the local authority to find new schools for their children.
“But I think that, while it’s always difficult to change the school your children are at, if things are going wrong it’s much better to act quickly.
“We don’t want to let things rumble on and fail a generation of children.
“Much better to get in there and sort it out and make sure the children can get a good school place.”