Montessori free school graded inadequate

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A Montessori free school has been rated inadequate in its first Ofsted inspection.

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The Discovery New School in Crawley,West Sussex, is the first state-funded primary to adopt a whole-school Montessori approach and was one of the first free schools to open.

It was rated inadequate in three out of four categories: pupil achievement, quality of teaching and leadership and management. The behaviour and safety of pupils requires improvement.

The school is a mixed primary school taking children from the age of four to 11 and opened in September 2011 as one of the first free schools in the country and the first Montessori free school.

However, the chairman of the Montessori School’s Association Martin Bradley said that the association tried to 'reach out' to the school to offer support on several occasions, but they did not respond.

Mr Bradley said, 'The Montessori Schools Association has had limited contact with the school from the start of the scheme. We suggested that they seek accreditation, but they did not.

'Eighty-eight per cent of Montessori pre-schools and primary schools have a good or outstanding Ofsted rating, in comparison to 78 per cent of national primary and pre-schools. This is a very disappointing outcome, but we will continue to try to offer support to the school.'

The Ofsted report has outlined that the arrangements for assessing pupils’ progress in reading, writing and mathematics are inadequate, senior leaders believe the school is far better than it is and are not giving the school a clear sense of direction, and that the governors are not knowledgeable enough about the school’s serious shortcomings.

More than a third of parents who submitted their views through Ofsted's Parent View disagree or strongly disagree that the school is well led and managed.

However pupils like the school, while several said that they preferred it to their previous one and the teaching staff related well to the pupils.

A Department for Education spokesperson said, ‘We expect those in charge of Discovery New School to take urgent action to address the failings identified by Ofsted. We will closely monitor the situation and will not hesitate to take action, including terminating the Funding Agreement, if the school does not make rapid improvements.’

The school describes itself as having ‘small classes with teachers free to teach, parent participation and a Montessori curriculum and approach.’ There are currently 48 pupils in the school.

The establishment of free schools, which are granted approval by the Department for Education after bids from groups of parents or teachers, is one of the reforms of state-funded schooling in England launched by Michael Gove.

So far, Ofsted has inspected 11 out of 81 established free schools. Discovery New School is the first to be rated inadequate, three have been graded ‘requires improvement’, seven have been rated good. No free school has so far been graded outstanding.

Nursery World contacted the school for a comment but did not receive one.