Free school judged to be inadequate in first Ofsted report

Teaching standards and leadership at the Discovery New School in Broadfield have been judged to be inadequate in the school’s first Ofsted inspection.

The school, set up in September 2011 as one of the country’s first free schools, has been warned by inspectors that if improvements are not made quickly many pupils are in danger of leaving the school without being able to read and write. It has been put into ‘Special Measures’ which means it will be regularly inspected unannounced.

The report is critical of the leadership.

It states: “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.

“Senior leaders are not giving the school a clear sense of direction. They have been far too slow to act on essential recommendations from a visit by the Department for Education’s advisor, which took place over seven months ago.”

The school is run using the Montessori method of teaching which is based upon the principle that children have innate interest in learning, and that by presenting children with the right environment they should learn to be self-motivated and independent.

But inspectors found the gaps in teachers’ knowledge is preventing pupils from developing a good grounding in basic skills, particularly in literacy and have recommended training for teaching staff and also governors so they can better hold senior staff to account.

There is also concern too many children are being assessed as having special educational needs when ‘some of them simply need better teaching’.

Business manager Andrew Snowdon, who set up the school with his wife Lindsey, said the school was challenging Ofsted’s findings.

“We are a school that does not follow the National Curriculum and puts a different emphasis on children’s learning over the long run.

“This inspection team had a different perspective that we respect but do not necessarily agree with. We are disappointed by Ofted’s current views and will be lodging a formal complaint as well as accelerating work on our improvement plan. The Trust remains fully supportive of the Montessori ethos and teaching.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We expect those in charge of Discovery Free School to take urgent action to address the failings identified by Ofsted. We will closely monitor the situation and will not hesitate to take action, including terminating the Funding Agreement, if the school does not make rapid improvements.”