Sunderland’s first free school is told to improve on paperwork

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THE city’s first free school has been told it must improve by education watchdogs.

Grindon Hall Christian School in Pennywell, which became one of the first Free Schools in the region when it converted from a private school in September 2012, was given an overall level three rating after an inspection by Ofsted.

Although the inspectors said the achievement of pupils, quality of teaching and behaviour and safety of pupils is good, the school needs improvement because of weaknesses in monitoring and collecting data and the use of available information.

However, the inspectors did recognise there had been rapid progress made by senior leaders and governors in developing their skills.

Chris Gray, principal at Grindon Hall, said although he respects Ofsted, he doesn’t believe the report does justice to the school.

He said: “Parents are vastly supportive of what we are doing, we are delivering outstanding results and we are hugely over-subscribed.

“Last year I sat through 100 appeals from parents wanting places for their children.

“What we have failed to do is generate the bureaucratic background of data and evidence Ofsted requires. Our attitude is respectful and we appreciate the feedback and will respond where necessary.”

The principal said the change from a private school to a state-funded one is massive and added: “I think in a year we did a great job to adapt the way we did.”

Before being given Free School status, Grindon Hall had 345 pupils, but now has the capacity for 560 pupils, aged four to 18.

Last week, education secretary Michael Gove came under fire after being accused of diverting £400million of classroom funding to plug a hole in his Free Schools project’s budget.