So, Al-Madinah is being handed over to a tried and tested purveyor of academies : job done? Well, maybe, as far as the kids are concerned and, since the place was in dire straits, I can’t think of a better solution, the interests of the children always being paramount, in my book. But, as the old joke goes, I wouldn’t have started from here. Once alerted to the appalling state of affairs that had developed at A-M, the authorities acted pretty swiftly and have found a solution – but how come this school was allowed to open in the first place, given that the problems of inadequately trained, unqualified staff and even the issues with safeguarding, were apparent before it opened? It was obvious that the group setting up the school had no experience of setting up something as complex and significant as a school – after all, this wasn’t a couple of people opening a little shop on the high street.
In the pre-registration report by OFSTED in July 2012, before the school opened, no assessment was made of its ability to educate children! However, at this stage OFSTED did identify four regulations regarding child protection that the school hadn’t yet met and indicated that staff needed training. The DfE says that A-M provided evidence it had met the OFSTED requirements before it opened. Yet the school had to close after the first day of the inspection because the OFSTED team found basic safeguarding requirements were not being met. Whilst wondering what the Headteacher was doing not to have noticed this nor to have spotted that all teaching was inadequate and none of his staff even knew how to plan a lesson, since the governors were inexperienced enough to hold him to account, what outside body was there to monitor and support the school? OFSTED is the nuclear option but, dare I say it, a local authority would have fitted the bill perfectly?
Al-Madinah shows up in stark relief, the problems inherent in setting up free schools and all those who oppose them should be pressurising the government and educating the public by telling them about this, and similar, disasters. The problem is, by no means, ‘sorted’!