So, the 1st November deadline set by scourge of ‘free’ schools (Lord) John Nash for the Al-Madinah school in Derby to agree a plan or lose its public funding has come and gone and – well, er, nothing. They had to plan to meet 17 points set out by Nash but I can’t find anything to say whether they have or not. Judging by local news outlets and their own website, quite a lot has been happening. They’ve told the staff they don’t have to cover their hair if they don’t want to (big of them) and the chair of governors has resigned. The local Muslim community has called on all the governors to go but no sign that they have.
Meanwhile, I’ve got round to reading the actual OFSTED report, rather than just the headlines and, it really is quite appalling. When OFSTED gives a school ‘inadequate’ in all four categories and describes it as ‘dysfunctional’ you know it’s bad but nothing quite prepared me for this. I won’t quote, go and look for yourself, but what is described could barely be called a ‘school’ at all.
One question must be, how can this situation be rescued? Starting again from scratch would be the best option although personally, I can’t quite see the need for the school in the first place. But we also have to ask, what can we learn from this extreme example for the future? It will come as no surprise that I think it is a powerful object lesson in how NOT to set up a new school and therefore why ‘free’ schools are just wrong. I cannot imagine a school set up under the aegis of a local authority ending up like this. They’d have selected or built somewhere suitable to house the school to start off with then, having appointed a head (more of that later) he or she would have set about appointing suitable staff with relevant qualifications and experience, developing appropriate policies and so forth. The quality of teaching would have been monitored by the head, suitably supported by LA inspectors. The LA would also have ensured proper financial control, which was the problem that first brought this school to our attention
And, what of the first principal, Andrew Cutts-McKay? He has been interviewed on local TV and revealed himself as a whistle-blower, who alerted the authorities to potential financial irregularities and who, when he received anonymous threats to himself and his family, resigned in June, before the school had been open a year. According to his version of events, he was not responsible for the chaos. If so, as head/principal, had he not appointed people who had never taught, overseen a system that failed to check CRB records, didn’t keep accurate data and where attendance was poor? Did he not monitor teaching and recognise what OFSTED spotted in a day, that it was woefully inadequate in virtually every classroom and that students were making no progress?
You’ll be pleased to know that the governors of the mooted Newark Free School were so impressed with Mr Cutts-McKay’s experience, CV and proven track record, that they’ve appointed him principal designate. Comment would be superfluous: satire really is dead.