Al-Madinah free school in Derby labelled ‘dysfunctional’ by Ofsted

Oct 17, 2013 by

A Muslim free school has been damned by Ofsted inspectors as “dysfunctional” and rated inadequate in every category – within a year of it opening.

An inspection at Derby’s Al-Madinah school was brought forward after fears were raised over teaching standards.

The report says teachers there are inexperienced and have not been provided with proper training and that the school requires special measures.

The school said it accepted the report and would use it to move forward.

The inspection had been due to take place by the end of the year but was prioritised following allegations that female teachers were obliged to wear hijabs and pupils were segregated.

Analysis

There can be no more controversial policy than Michael Gove’s free school project.

Some welcome the DIY school idea as a breath of fresh air in a stale system.

Others see it as a dangerous ideological experiment, with our children its guinea pigs.


But one thing is certain, Ofsted’s report on the Al-Madinah School could not be more damning.

Questions will be asked how the Department for Education could approve a school for opening one year, only for it to be found to lack the “basic systems” it needs to operate the next.

Were the checks necessary for ensuring the school would be fit for purpose undertaken in a sufficiently rigorous way?

Al-Madinah is not the first free school to be put on special measures, and at least one other has “required improvement”.

But none has unravelled quite so publicly as this Derby faith school.

It is this added religious dimension that makes the issue so tricky for Mr Gove.

In the early days of his free school project, applications from minority faith groups seemed to come in thick and fast. Not all went on to open, but some may ask whether more schools than should have been were approved for opening.

The school has since written to pupils and staff telling them there is no requirement to cover their hair.

The Department for Education had earlier warned the school faced closure unless discrimination against female staff and pupils stopped.

A spokesperson said: “We were already investigating this school before allegations became public. We discussed the problems with Ofsted and it launched an immediate inspection.

“We have received a response from the Al-Madinah Education Trust as well as a report on the school from Ofsted. Any decisions made will take into account all the available evidence.”

Cut and paste

The Ofsted report found that pupils were given the same work “regardless of their different abilities” and the governing body was “ineffective”.


It said basic systems were not in place, describing the school as being “in chaos” and “dysfunctional”.

Boys and girls had different lunch sittings but the report said this was due to the small size of the canteen.

Inspectors gave the school the lowest ranking – “inadequate” – in every area, prompting the chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw to call for it to be placed in special measures.

This means Ofsted will carry out inspections at the school at short notice to monitor improvements. If poor performance continues the school could be closed.

Dr Stuart Wilson, the acting head teacher, said there were “significant and serous problems” at the school and accepted some of the lessons were not meeting necessary standards.

In one mathematics lesson, described by Ofsted as “insufficiently challenging”, pupils spent the majority of their time cutting out and pasting shapes.

Dr Wilson said the school, which has 412 pupils aged between four and 16, had a lot of issues to deal with but he insisted it did have a future.

Al-Madinah School Ofsted will carry out short-notice inspections at the school to monitor improvements

“Obviously the report doesn’t make pleasant reading for anybody – we don’t want to be in this position – we wish we weren’t in this position – but what we need to do now is to accept the report in full and use it to move the school forward.”

Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, said: “Frankly, the position of Al-Madinah school is now untenable and I would fully expect the school to close and for the children to be found alternative places in the council schools in the city.”

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said the Ofsted report exposed the government’s free school programme as a “dangerous free-for-all”.

He said: “Pupils have been failed on every possible measure and parents will want to know how David Cameron and Michael Gove have allowed this to happen.”

He added: “Far from an isolated incident, the failings at this school reveal the systemic threat to education standards under this government.

“David Cameron and Michael Gove can no longer ignore this issue – it is a crisis entirely of their own making.”

Schools minister David Laws said the government had taken “swift action” to deal with failings at the Al-Madinah free school, telling MPs it would not let any school “languish in failure”.

He defended the performance of free schools, saying the majority were rated as good, or excellent.

Mr Laws also accused Labour of “total and utter opportunism” using the findings “to shift its position”.

BBC News – Al-Madinah free school in Derby labelled ‘dysfunctional’ by Ofsted.

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