“Free” Schools are underperforming, according to Ofsted

August Update on “Free” Schools


All the “free” schools opened in 2011 have now been inspected.  According to Ofsted and Edubase, only 69% of “free” schools were graded “good” or better, compared to 79% of all maintained schools.  However, on the 1st August the Government issued a press release claiming that ¾ of “free” schools were classified as either good or outstanding by Ofsted.


On further investigation, it was found that the list of “free” schools accessible on the main DfE website is different from that obtained from Edubase, which includes a studio school and 2 UTCs.  The studio school and one of the UTCs were graded as needing improvement and a UTC (the JCB Academy) opened in 2010 does not appear to have been inspected at all.  Could the difference be deliberate?


  • 12 Ofsted reports on the 26 ‘free’ schools inspected contain the information that the proportion of students with special needs, on free school meals or in care is below the national average, even when serving an area of disadvantage.


  • 5 of the schools are not new schools, 4 were private schools.  Of these 5 schools, one was previously graded “outstanding” but is now needing improvement.  Is the state funding propping up a private education system suffering from an economic downturn and what will happen when the economy improves?


  • One report mentioned surplus places.


  • One report said “The local authority continues to give very good support despite having no formal responsibility for the Free School.”  This presumably means that, although the local authority gets no money for it, services which are intended for other local authority schools are being diverted to support a previously independent school (Batley Grammar) which has chosen to be an independent, state-funded school.


  • According to the DfE only 17 of the 26 have so far received capital funding amounting to £64 million.  A further £10 million was spent on revenue, with the studio school and UTC funding being undisclosed.


graded 1

Graded 2

graded 3


England results Jan – Apr 2013









2011 “free” Openers










Post Script. One of the problems with the Department for Education website is that a) information is increasingly difficult to find, even with its declared intention of increasing transparency and b) the information is not consistent.


UTC = University Technical College.



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