Michael Gove’s team is cock-a-hoop about the performance of free schools in the latest round of Oftsed reports. Of the 24 schools tested, 4 were judged outstanding, 14 were rated good, 5 have room for improvement and 1 was declared inadequate. A quick turnaround is required of the 6 substandard schools. The Department of Education emphasises that the tests were vigorous, carried out under Ofsted’s ‘tougher new inspection framework’ introduced last September.
Michael Gove is making some political hay from this admittedly small sample. He said,
‘Too often the best schools are only available to the rich who can afford to go private or pay for an expensive house in the catchment area of a good school. Free schools are giving all parents – not just the rich – the choice of a high quality school with great teaching and strong discipline.’
Where does this leave the opponents of free schools? Gove and Co. are fond of saying that successes, no matter how small, will leave his opponents with no choice but to continue his policies because success breeds public demand for more of the same. Free schools got off to a slow start when they were introduced, but things are picking up. There are now 81 free schools open, with a further 200 slated to open. The department says that these schools will ‘deliver 130,000 new school places’. It’s hard to see how trade unions, Labour or whoever can ignore that figure, assuming that the places are taken.