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Parents remove pupils from Crawley's newest school

By Crawley News  |  Posted: August 08, 2013

By Chris Ballinger

  • ANGER: Andrew Snowdon

  • NOT HAPPY WITH THE ASSESSMENT: Andrew Snowdon, Discovery New School's business director reks20111209f ks

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PARENTS of seven pupils at Crawley's newest school want to remove their children, after it was placed in special measures.

Discovery New School's first Ofsted inspection in May resulted in it being given the worst possible rating of "inadequate".

And it has emerged this week that a number of mums and dads are trying to find new schools for their youngsters.

The team running what is Crawley's first free school have vowed to fight the damaging judgement by issuing a formal complaint.

West Sussex County Council is also monitoring the situation as it is unclear how many of the parents whose children have been offered a place at Discovery for the new school year will accept the offer.

Sue Mullins, a county councillor for Gossops Green and Ifield West, raised her concerns at a full county council meeting on July 19.

Cllr Mullins, a retired teacher who taught for 40 years, said: "The attitude of the school to challenge the assessment rather than committing their full efforts to a resolution of the problems identified is very concerning."

The school, at Broadfield House in Broadfield Park, is directly funded by the government and does not come under council control.

But Cllr Mullins has concerns other schools will be affected if more parents try to pull their boys and girls out of Discovery.

Peter Evans, the county council's cabinet member for children, responded to her concerns, and stated: "No special contingencies are needed to handle any applications that may result from the Ofsted report of this small school."

He added that for all but one year group there are "more than sufficient" places at other schools in Crawley.

For the one year without enough places schools outside the town would have to be approached, if necessary.

Cllr Evans said the mums and dads who have applied to move their children from Discovery have all been offered places elsewhere, although one parent declined the offer because they are waiting for a place at a specific school.

He said: "As a local authority it is our duty to provide a school place for any parent who applies for one.

"We know of parents who have been offered a place at Discovery New School for September but have also applied to maintained schools through the county council. It appears they are playing the waiting game to see what improvements are made over the summer before making a final decision."

The county council has met with the Department for Education (DfE) and raised concerns about the fact that DfE officials visited the school seven months ahead of the Ofsted inspection and did not alert the county council to any concerns.

It has been agreed there will be more open communication in the future.

THE SCHOOL DEFENDS ITSELF

THE founders of Discovery New School are working on a formal complaint against the Ofsted review it received in May.

Andrew Snowdon, school business director and co-founder with his wife Lindsey, is fighting the judgement and comments of the inspectors.

He said: “We have been judged on the basis of the National Curriculum but as a free school we do have not follow the National Curriculum.

“As a school we put an emphasis on children’s learning over the long term.

“It should be clear that we have not had a fair inspection on that basis.

“We are a new school of just over 18 months and expect to be constantly evolving and changing.”

Mr Snowdon said the school is also in the process of restructuring its senior management team after a key member left, partly due to ill health.

His wife, who has been the school’s head teacher, may change role but is not leaving the school, he added.

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