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Free school put in special measures

Published 09/07/2015

Prime Minister David Cameron at the opening of Perry Beeches III Free School in Birmingham
Prime Minister David Cameron at the opening of Perry Beeches III Free School in Birmingham

A flagship free school opened by the Prime Minister has been placed in special measures after Ofsted branded its teaching "dull".

The damning report has led to super-head Liam Nolan having to step in and take personal control of the failing Birmingham school after inspectors rated Perry Beeches III inadequate.

Headteacher Darren Foreman, deputy head Vicky Haggart and assistant Gurprite Lohia have all resigned, as has the chair of governors.

The school is part of the Perry Beeches Academy Trust which is run by Mr Nolan, and includes four other schools including the outstanding-rated Perry Beeches I.

But in a report due to be published on their sister school's performance tomorrow, inspectors visiting in May criticised teaching as "dull" and the leadership as having an "unrealistic and inaccurate" sense of the school.

It also found lessons "failed to engage" students, and "too many pupils cannot read well enough" in a school where many of the intake speak English as a second language.

Pupil behaviour was also singled out as in need of improvement, during the two-day inspection.

Mr Nolan, who confirmed the content of the report, yesterday wrote apologising to parents but said he fundamentally disagreed with the Ofsted findings.

As acting headteacher of the school he said he had taken "swift, decisive and hard" action, pointing to the rapid exit of the head and senior leadership team.

"I'm not pontificating about what should be done, I've gone in and am taking this face-on, because the previous headteacher clearly didn't do that," he said.

However, he has also appealed against the inspection findings and said a further visit from Ofsted is set to take place in the autumn.

Mr Nolan said: "I've taken on board what Ofsted have said, and I've been in there as headteacher now for two months.

"I've rolled up my sleeves, have made immediate changes, and will be making significant changes in that school.

"I am looking forward to working with Ofsted when they visit in the autumn.

"What I would say is, wait and see how Liam Nolan is measured when that report comes out."

He added: "The Ofsted report has made criticisms, and I am deeply sorry to parents - some of whom feel let down - but my view is we'll now make the changes."

Among the measures taken, Mr Nolan said he had personally reviewed every single one of the 200 pupils' workbooks in each subject himself.

A team pulled together from the wider academy trust including fellow executive headteacher Jackie Powell has also started work at the school.

Mr Nolan said: "Ultimately, this isn't about me or Ofsted, it's about the children and the education the children receive."

He defended his running of the wider academy trust and said his "eyes were not off the ball" regarding the failing free school.

Mr Nolan added the school was inspected three times by the Department for Education (DfE) in the months before Ofsted's visit, and there were no causes for concern raised.

The school is adding an additional intake annually, so that by 2018 it will be a fully-fledged secondary school catering for ages 11 to 16.

A spokesman for the DfE said: "Liam Nolan and the Perry Beeches free schools are transforming the life chances of children in Birmingham, in some of the most deprived communities of the country.

"The performance of Perry Beeches I and II have set the bar for schools across the rest of the country.

"Swift action has already been taken to change the leadership of Perry Beeches III and to turn around the performance of the school.

"This is one of the key strengths of free schools and academies - when we spot failure we can take far swifter action than would happen in other schools, because no child should spend a single day at a failing school."

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