Legal action threat over free school closure

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GOVERNORS of a school which has been told by the Government it is to close have said they could take legal action to keep it running.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced in January that she was terminating the Durham Free School’s funding agreement after Ofsted inspectors rated it “inadequate”, and an improvement plan drawn up by the school has now been rejected.

But the school’s chairman of governors John Denning insisted the inspectors’ report was “just plain wrong” and needed to be reviewed.

Mr Denning said: “We are seeking further legal advice, so I can’t confirm that we will definitely be contesting it legally, but we are taking further advice today.

“The Ofsted report from the inspection towards the end of November contradicts the monitoring reports from the Department for Education, it contradicts the experience of our parents, it contradicts the assessment data of the school that had been moderated externally by another school, it contradicts a whole raft of evidence.

“It absolutely contradicts the experience of the parents and the children at the school. For example it says a lot about bullying, and yet many of our parents have experienced that their child has been bullied in previous schools, moved to the Durham Free School and been free of it and happy to come to the school - in some cases for the first time in their lives.

“If what the Ofsted report said was true, if what the Secretary of State then said about the capacity for improvement was true, then obviously there would be no argument - the school should close.

“What we are saying is that that Ofsted report is inaccurate - on a number of accounts, it’s just plain wrong. This needs to be looked at again.”

Mr Denning said he had written to House of Commons Speaker John Bercow to complain after North West Durham MP Pat Glass told Parliament that she had been told by headteachers that the free school was staffed by teachers of a poor standard.

He said the comment was “tittle-tattle that’s been passed on under the protection of parliamentary privilege”, and insisted that there was not a single teacher at the school with a record of leaving a previous job because of question marks over their competence.