Ofsted data shows that 2,223 primary schools are rated as Inadequate or Requires Improvement. This means that around 95,000 four and five year olds will be starting their school days in schools that are not good enough.
Amongst this number, Ofsted has identified 290 ‘stuck schools’ – primary schools which have been judged as Satisfactory, Requires Improvement or Inadequate at every inspection since 2005. The New Schools Network’s analysis estimates that over a million children will have attended these primary schools over the 14-year period.
This means that two entire generations of primary pupils have gone through these schools, which were at no point offering an education judged to be good enough. What’s more, these schools have far more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds - those on free school meals - than the national average, meaning that the pupils most in need of excellent schools are instead being sent to primaries that have been underperforming for more than a decade.
An analysis of the Ofsted reports of 165 of these 290 primary schools shows a regional imbalance, with two thirds of these schools located in the North or the Midlands and only three in London. These are the areas most in need of new free schools that can offer a fresh start for education and provide these forgotten families the choice, and excellent educational opportunities, they deserve.
Free schools offer an educational lifeline, bringing not just great schooling, but a renewed sense of aspiration into communities that have been let down for too long. Without new schools we will never address the burning injustices which have left so many families feeling like they have been forgotten by Government and the state and left with no choice but to send their children to underperforming schools.
This imbalance is entrenched by house prices rocketing around good schools, stopping families without financial means from being able to live in the areas with the best schools. This is backed up by analysis from Confused.com, which found that houses in a catchment area of an Outstanding school could be up to 40% more expensive than a similar property in the catchment area of an Inadequate school.
We know that free schools offer the opportunity for real change, and primary free schools are producing strong academic results, making sure that children master the 3Rs in primary school, and have been outperforming all other types of school for four years in a row.
For that reason, NSN is calling on the Government to make poor educational standards the primary criteria for approving new free schools. It is not good enough to reject applications from groups in areas where there are school places available, but only in underperforming schools.
Luke Tryl, Director of NSN, said:
“Finding out which primary school your child is going to should be a time of excitement, but today nearly 100,000 families will find out their child is being sent to a school that isn’t good enough. Even worse, 12,500 of them are destined to attend a school that hasn’t been good in over a decade. That simply isn’t good enough. What’s more, it’s clear that while many primary schools improved over the past decade, the number of primary schools requiring improvement is no longer going down and improvement is at risk of stalling. It is increasingly clear we’ve hit stubborn rump of schools where countless improvement initiatives just aren’t working.
“Rather than trying the same methods again and again, we should instead offer families the opportunity of a new free school instead. Free schools have proven themselves to be one of the best ways of addressing educational disadvantage and offering forgotten families better choices for their children. We want the Department for Education to let us take the free schools policy back to its original purpose and to allow more free schools to open up in those areas being served by persistently underperforming schools.”