Failing Montessori free school to close

Catherine Gaunt
Friday, December 13, 2013

One of the first free schools to open is to have its funding withdrawn by the Department for Education and will close next year.

The Discovery New School in Crawley, West Sussex, was the first state-funded primary to adopt a whole-school Montessori approach.

It is set to close at the end of the spring term next year.

The school had been placed in special measures following a grading of inadequate for overall effectiveness, leadership and management, the quality of teaching and the achievement of pupils.

Schools minister Lord Nash made the announcement in a letter to the school’s chair of governors.

It said that following a subsequent visit 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. None of the school’s teachers were delivering good lessons and all were still consistently inadequate or required improvement.’

It added that staff were ‘unable to deliver teaching and learning even at the most basic level with the consequence for the pupils of continued inadequate teaching for an unacceptable length of time.’

Lord Nash said that he realised that his decision to end the school’s funding would be disappointing for pupils, parents and those involved with the school, ‘but I will not allow a failing school to continue with no clear, workable plan to improve rapidly.’

He said that Department for Education officials would work with West Sussex County Council to support children and parents with the move to alternative schools.

A statement posted on the school's website said that governors, head, staff, parents and children were 'deeply disappointed' at the DfE's decision.

'Our management team and new partners, including a national leader of governance and the Montessori St Nicholas Trust, believe that the school submitted a plan that was both credible and strong - and would continue to deliver change quickly.'

Philip Bujak, chief executive of the Montessori St Nicholas charity, which had recently been supporting the failing school in a new partnership, said he was saddened to hear of its impending closure.

‘Here was a clear case where we at Montessori advised the DfE, before they even granted Discovery permission to proceed, to allow us to oversee the implementation of the Montessori element and curriculum to ensure that taxpayers money was protected and parents received the genuine article.

‘That advice was ignored and the net results is the waste of a large amount of money, the name of Montessori tarnished through ignorance and a large number of parents very badly let down.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said, ‘The vast majority of free schools are performing well with three-quarters rated good or outstanding. But we will not hesitate to intervene and take swift action if children are being denied the education they deserve. This applies to every school.??

‘Since the school was placed in special measures by Ofsted in May we have monitored progress closely. The [Discovery New School Academy]Trust has not provided evidence they are making the changes required. Lord Nash has today notified the Trust that the department will terminate its funding agreement at the end of the spring term.

‘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.’

© MA Education 2019. Published by MA Education Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, London SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 04002826. MA Education is part of the Mark Allen Group. – All Rights Reserved