The Guardian published the not yet released Ofsted report on Al-Medinah school. It’s grim.

Overall effectiveness: Inadequate.

Achievement of pupils: Inadequate.

Quality of teaching: Inadequate.

Behaviour and safety of pupils: Inadequate.

Leadership and management: Inadequate.

The Guardian sums up:

An Ofsted report, due to be published imminently, declares that the Al-Madinah Islamic  school in Derby is “in chaos” and has “not been adequately monitored or supported”.

The report, which has been leaked to the Guardian, says teachers at the faith school are inexperienced and have not been provided with proper training.

Pupils are given the same work “regardless of their different abilities” and the governing body is “ineffective”, according to the report which was commissioned amid reports of irregularities at the school.

But it’s reform. Reform is good, isn’t it?

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said the Ofsted report showed that Michael Gove’s reform programme, in which the new schools are freed from local education authority control and allowed to appoint unqualified teachers if they choose, has become a “dangerous free-for-all”.

Hunt told the Guardian: “What this report exposes is that David Cameron and Michael Gove’s Free School programme has become a dangerous free-for-all: an out of control ideological experiment that has left 400 children losing an entire week of learning.”

The Ofsted report gives the school the lowest “inadequate” ranking in every area, prompting the chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw to call for it to be placed in special measures. The inspectors also complain that teachers without proper qualifications have been given key posts.

It’s the free market. Give it time.


  1. AsqJames says

    “teachers without proper qualifications”

    I have recently developed a renewed respect for teachers and what it takes to be a good one.

    I’ve been doing a bit of informal maths tutoring for the son of some friends. He’s a smart enough kid, he’d just fallen a little behind for a variety of entirely normal reasons. I did maths at undergraduate level and when my kids were his age a few years ago I had no problem helping them when they asked/needed it.

    Boy did I underestimate soooo much. Just getting to know a child well enough so you can find out how to motivate him and read the little signs that says he’s not really following you took several weeks. Even then, and even in a one-on-one situation, you have to work all the time to keep their attention. Plus preparing topics and setting questions is very different from helping your kid understand homework already set by someone else.

    At school, this young lad’s teacher is expected to do everything I’m doing for a class with 31 other 13/14 year olds. Each of whom is unique in their own way, and he has how many other classes the same size?

    Now some aspects will obviously get easier with experience, and you can re-use lesson plans, worksheets and stuff, but this idea that “if you know a subject well enough you can teach it” is absolute, grade ‘A’ bollocks. Especially with 30+ teenagers who haven’t voluntarily chosen to come to school.

    I’d happily do the free hour or two a week of tutoring again in future, because it is tremendously rewarding and what are friends for after all, but at less than £25,000 starting salary you couldn’t drag me anywhere near an actual classroom.

  2. Robert B. says

    AsqJames @1:

    There’s some system you can learn that makes a lot of that not as hard as it seems at first. For example, the Socratic method keeps the student demonstrating their understanding at every step, so that your ability to read their body language to see if the student is following you becomes less critical. Anyway, when you’ve worked with enough kids, there are enough recurring elements in body language that let you pick up a new kid’s cues fairly quickly.

    But yeah – teaching is definitely a skill. Subject knowledge is necessary but not sufficient.

  3. moleatthecounter says

    At least this has been ‘noticed’… at last.

    The figures for ‘faith ethos’-based organisations’ applications to open Free Schools is much worse than I imagined actually.

    From 2011-2013 –

    (Estimated figures from the British Humanist Association’s application under the Freedom of Information Act to the Department of Education)

    32 Church of England (15 successful)
    8 Catholic (2 successful)
    9 Accelerated Christian Education (0 successful – including the ‘Christian Education Europe
    Ltd’ entry, and one that is also Christian Schools Trust)
    10 Christian Schools Trust (0 successful – including one that is also Accelerated Christian Education)
    15 Plymouth Brethren (0 successful – including the ‘Focus Learning Trust’ entry)
    2 Greek Orthodox (1 successful)
    1 Russian Orthodox (0 successful)
    111 other Christian (19 successful)
    80 Muslim (5 successful)
    13 Sikh (7 successful)
    12 Jewish (6 successful)
    3 Hindu (2 successful)
    1 ‘Hindu/Buddhist/Ghandian’ (0 successful
    1 Satanist (0 successful)
    1 ‘All faiths’ (1 successful)
    27 Steiner (2 successful)
    3 Maharishi (1 successful)
    329 not faith (134 successful)


    Number of faith ethos schools that *should* be allowed to open. Fucking zero.

    I do admit to being quite impressed by anyone who attempted – even in jest – to open a Satanist Free School.

  4. Minnow says

    Nothing to do with the free market at all, these are all state schools. And Hunt is being a bit disingenuous, because he has spun on his heel and has now decided Labour would not stop the Free School movement. Of course, some will fail despite all safeguards, but (whisper it) some schools fail anyway.

  5. moleatthecounter says

    If I may, they are ‘state-approved’ schools and state-funded or partially state-funded. They aren’t strictly state schools, as virtually anyone – religious groups, parent groups can apply. The move was away from the traditional state school system, mirroring in some respects the Swedish (and others) model. The problem being for me, as you can see above, is the plethora of faith-based applications.

    I mean seriously, 27 Steiner schools?! That is a shock…

  6. Minnow says

    Mole, the move is away from the traditional model (for a small number of schools) but they are still state schools, fully regulated by the state. The whole idea is that they will introduce a wider variety of practice and methodology so we will be able to experiment to find what tings work best, so complaining that some of them fail is a bit daft. Many comprehensive schools on the traditional model have failed abysmally, but nobody seriously thinks that discredits comp education per se.

    As to teaching qualifications, they are sometimes valuable and sometimes not. I think a head teacher is best placed to decide which teachers are appropriate for her school.

  7. moleatthecounter says

    Thanks Minnow, for the considered response.

    At the end of the day, my problem is that this one and may others are faith schools.

  8. Pieter B, FCD says

    an out of control ideological experiment that has left 400 children losing an entire week of learning

    An entire week? Seems to me a semester, if not an entire school year would be a more accurate estimate. This is the problem with educational experiments that are not closely controlled; the effects on large numbers of children can be devastating.

  9. says

    Minnow – did you not read the quoted paragraph immediately above my “free market” comment? My comment was a comment on that paragraph. Should I draw arrows for you in future?

    Sorry, that’s rude, but you do seem to be awfully bad at seeing connections and what follows from what. Also awfully literal. Try being a better reader, and maybe your comments will be better.

  10. Minnow says

    Ophelia, I did see it, but it isn’t a free market in any sense. I don’t mind you being rude, it is one of things I like about you. But I am not used to you being dim.

  11. AsqJames says


    They are state funded, but they are not state schools in any other respect. The state has no direct control over how any aspect of a “free school” is run, all the state can do is allow them to open (or not) and decide whether they can stay open (or not).

    The whole idea is that they will introduce a wider variety of practice and methodology so we will be able to experiment to find what tings (sic) work best

    If that really were the idea behind the scheme it would be a very different scheme. Like many areas of public policy, we don’t have a very good idea of what works best in education, but we do know quite a bit about how to find out. It’s the same way we find out anything else about reality and how it works – science.

    Not all of the “rules” of scientific experiments or randomised controlled trials can be replicated for every intervention you want to test in every environment, but the principles of creating a fair test remain the same. If you really want to “find out what works” you stick as closely to those principles as possible and when deviation from them is unavoidable you give rational explanations for the deviation.

    The free schools initiative does none of that and is demonstrably based on ideology – the political rather than religious kind. It’s the ideology that says the state is always inferior to private enterprise. The same ideological certainty can be seen in many proponents of comprehensive education, but that isn’t an argument for some other ideology, it’s an argument to discard ideology itself.

  12. Minnow says

    “They are state funded, but they are not state schools in any other respect. The state has no direct control over how any aspect of a “free school” is run”

    Yes it has, the state funds the schools, determines their achievement targets and entrance conditions, monitors and reports on the schools and sets improvement standards where necessary. When the state wants to, it changes the leadership of the schools or closes it. They are state schools in every sense. They just do not have to have local authority members as part of the governance (although many still do). This is very easy to understand because we already have a real private sector to compare them to. Anyone can open a private school (just about) any time they like.

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