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House of Commons Hansard
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01 December 2014
Volume 589
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12. What recent assessment she has made of the performance of free schools. [906341]

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The performance of free schools is continually reviewed as more and more are inspected by Ofsted. Based on the inspections undertaken so far, the majority of free schools are performing well. With 24% rated outstanding, they are more likely to be rated outstanding than other state-funded schools.

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In Weaver Vale, I am proud to have worked with the founders of the Sandymoor free school, which has grown from strength to strength since it opened in 2012. Will my hon. Friend join me in applauding the school’s achievements, including its first Ofsted report as a good school with outstanding leadership?

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I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the governors—I understand that he is one—and the staff at Sandymoor school. The school’s motto is “Ordinary people. Extraordinary achievements.” That is right in one respect, in that it is extraordinary to secure a good grading from Ofsted within the first two years of opening a new school, but there is nothing ordinary about the head teacher, Andrew Green-Howard, or his staff at a school where, to quote Ofsted, the

“majority of students are meeting or exceeding…ambitious targets…in mathematics, English and science”,

and behaviour “is very impressive.”

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May I, through the Minister, thank the Secretary of State and the Minister for free schools, Lord Nash, for their visit to the Falcons school in Leicester? I know that they enjoyed their visit. We were disappointed not to see the Minister there as well. I know that, apart from the education provided, the Secretary of State particularly liked the vegetable samosas that the children had made for her. Does the Minister agree not only that the Falcons school is the first Sikh school in Leicester, but that it has a first-class future?

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I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his praise of the Falcons school. I wish I had been there: I am a great fan of vegetable samosas, but I am more of a fan of free schools of whatever faith that provide high-quality schools and high-quality education up and down the country.

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It is always useful to have a bit of information about Ministers’ eating habits.

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23. [906352] I have championed the New College bid for a new free school in North Swindon, which would help to deliver much needed high-quality school places in my growing constituency. Will the Minister comment on the importance of local groups coming together to set up free schools?

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I thank New College and other proposers that have submitted free school applications for their hard work and commitment. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work and support for the New College bid. Free schools are giving local communities and teachers the freedom to come together and establish new high-quality schools that are raising academic standards. We are currently assessing all wave 8 applications against the published criteria, and we will soon write to applicants to notify them whether they have been selected for interview.

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We are constantly told that free schools are outperforming all other maintained schools. Will the Minister comment on his own Department’s admission that not only have a very small number of free schools actually been inspected, but that the

“findings cannot be interpreted as a balanced view of the quality of education nationally”?

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Of course, many of the schools have only just opened—they have been open for only one year or two years—and not all of them have yet been inspected. However, many have been inspected, and 24% of free schools inspected have been judged outstanding. That is under the tougher framework that Ofsted now applies. The rate is higher than for schools as a whole.