Sunderland free school told it needs to improve in first Ofsted inspection

A former independent school, which opted to become one of the Coalition Government’s first free schools has been told to improve

Grindon Hall in Sunderland
Grindon Hall in Sunderland

One of the first “free schools” in the North East has been told it needs to improve.

Former private school Grindon Hall, in Sunderland, was recently subjected to its first Ofsted inspection since turning its back on private education two years ago.

It was one of the first in the country to become a free school, meaning it is independent of control from Sunderland City Council, after successfully applying to the Department of Education.

The school which had been rated “good with outstanding features” by the education watchdog prior to becoming a free school has now been told it “requires improvement”.

Before it was given free school status, Grindon Hall had a roll of 345 pupils. However, the school has capacity now for 560 pupils and has been able to build a new sports hall with the extra funding from central Government.

But the Ofsted report says it is “not good” because it has weaknesses in the way it monitors pupils, because teachers are not using available information to help children progress and the school leaders have not provided evidence of how they are raising standards.

Principal Chris Gray said: “We have 15 new members of staff who have joined the school and year after year we’re oversubscribed. The children’s grades have not suffered and the parents I’ve spoken to are delighted with the way the school is going.

“But this is our first inspection after becoming a free school and I’d be lying if I said the past few years have not been challenging.

“Moving from the private school world into the public sector as a free school has been a bureaucratic challenge in many ways and this is reflected in the report.

“Being Government-funded means greater accountability and a greater emphasis on data and the use of data. I’ve had to pull teachers out of classrooms to carry out all the necessary red tape and I don’t want to have to do that. Their places are in the classrooms undoubtedly.”

When the school was first transformed in 2012, the Government’s aim was to raise standards across the board so that more parents have the opportunity to send their child to a good Sunderland school of their choice.

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