14 March 2014

A free school in Suffolk which opened in September 2012 has been put into special measures after being rated as “inadequate” in its first inspection.

Although the Ofsted report will not be released until 13 March 2014, inspectors are believed to have found inadequate teaching and poor behaviour, with a suggestion that the standard of pupils’ work has declined since entering the school.

IES Breckland Free School is run under a 10-year contract worth £21 million by the successful Swedish education provider Internationella Engelska Skolan (International English Schools) which, controversially, is a profit-making enterprise.

Its founder, American teacher Barbara Bergström was recently honoured as Sweden’s Female Entrepreneur of the Year, with the accolade of being “a role model for the entire Swedish school system”.

Although IES has admitted that the principal and several other staff have left and that the education provided at Breckland has been “sub-standard”, it had already committed to improving the school and had begun to make improvement plans following its own assessment before the inspection.

Alison Tilbrook, the new head since January, explained that her challenge now is to continue to implement the planned improvements, make “beneficial recruitment decisions”, “support staff to improve” and review behaviour policy.

However, the Department for Education says it “will not hesitate to take tough action” if the school fails to improve.

The NUT feels that parents and students have been “let down” by the “failing” free schools programme and has called on the Government to stop approving new schools until the existing free schools have been evaluated, while the ATL says the Government must not “sacrifice more children’s education to its pet ideologies”.