UK & World News

  • 13 December 2013, 18:36

Crawley Free School To Close As Cash Pulled

A failing free school has had its funding pulled and been told to shut amid "grave concerns" over the standard of education being provided.

Discovery New School (DNS) in Crawley, West Sussex, has been ordered to close its doors on April 4.

It is the first time the drastic decision to permanently close a site has been taken, and will come as a blow to the flagship government policy championed by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

In a damning letter to the school's chairman of governors, Chris Cook, Schools Minister Lord Nash said he was ending its funding agreement.

Discovery New School was declared failing and placed in special measures by the education watchdog Ofsted in May.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesman said it had been monitoring the school's progress and found it was not making the changes needed to improve standards.

DNS was one of the first 24 free schools to open in 2011.

In his letter to Mr Cook, Lord Nash said he had expressed his "grave concerns" about education standards last month, and asked the school for a statement on the action they were taking to address this.

Lord Nash said this statement had been considered, but Education Secretary Michael Gove was "not satisfied that the action the academy trust proposes to take is sufficient in all the circumstances".

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We are now working with West Sussex County Council to ensure the children affected have suitable alternatives in place and their transition is as smooth as possible."

Lord Nash's letter said that during a visit to Discovery New School last month, Ofsted found that "no progress in the quality of teaching and learning had been made since the original special measures judgement in May".

It added: "None of the school's teachers were delivering good lessons and all were still consistently inadequate or required improvement."

The minister concluded: "I recognise that my decision to terminate the funding agreement is likely to be disappointing for pupils, parents and all those involved with the school, but I will not allow a failing school to continue with no clear, workable plan to improve rapidly. It is not in the best interests of pupils to remain in an inadequate school."

West Sussex County Council said: "Although we have had no control over this situation, every effort will now be made to try and minimise disruption to children's education."

Free schools, set up by parents and other groups, are state-funded but operate outside local authority control.

Responding to the closure, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt said: "The closure of this free school is yet another shocking example of why David Cameron's flagship schools policy is failing.

"In his terrible rush to roll out the free school programme, David Cameron has abandoned high standards and basic safeguards - and the pupils at the Discovery Free School have paid the price."

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