A highly respected academic has stepped forward pointing education ministers towards a potentially face-saving solution to the Durham Free School dilemma.
James Tooley, professor of education policy at Newcastle University has written to schools minister Lord Nash with a proposal that he should become a governor of the school, bringing with him the expertise of other colleagues from the university’s education department to beef up DFS’s leadership and governance capacity.
Campaigners hope the minister will re-think the decision to close the school if he can be persuaded the school now has the necessary skills and resources on hand to improve its performance.
In his letter, Professor Tooley is also critical of the Ofsted report that found the school inadequate across the board. He says he has been following the school’s progress since it opened in 2013 but ‘I do not recognise the school from the Ofsted Report….’
Professor Tooley’s letter could well feature as evidence in the judicial review the school says it will seek if ministers insist on moving towards closure.
Meanwhile, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw has insisted that stories about children being asked inappropriate questions at DFS and nearby Grindon Hall Christian School are false.
Campaigners replied that the public will have little difficulty choosing whom to believe – Sir Michael or children such as 10-year-old Ariella Wilkinson.
Further questions were raised about Ofsted’s good faith in this matter at a meeting this week between parents, staff and local MP Roberta Blackman-Wood. A teacher at DFS claimed to have been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted at DFS but ‘outstanding’ at another local school where they also taught and which was inspected at almost the same time.