Durham Free School 'Haven For Bad Teachers'

28 January 2015, 06:39 | Updated: 28 January 2015, 06:42

A Labour MP was warned a problem-hit free school in Durham became a haven for "every bad teacher in the North East''.

At a short debate on Durham Free School, Pat Glass, the MP for North West Durham claims staff who had left other nearby schools after 'competency procedures' had been given new jobs at the controversial Durham City secondary.

But she told MPs she was aware of issues among staff at the school, with a headteacher in the region also relaying concerns to her.

Ms Glass explained that she raised staffing matters with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in November, adding she believed this hastened action against the school.

A damning Ofsted report found leadership, teaching, pupil behaviour and achievement were "inadequate'' and said the school should be put in special measures.

Mrs Morgan told the Commons last week that her department was ending its funding agreement for the school, which has a Christian ethos and opened in September 2013.

Free schools, set up under the flagship Government policy, previously closed down after damning assessments on how they were being run include part of the Al-Madinah School in Derby and the Discovery New School in Crawley, West Sussex.

Speaking during a short debate on Durham Free School, Education Select Committee member Ms Glass said:
"I consistently raised the financial and educational questions about opening a free school in a city where there is already a sufficiency of both surplus places and good and outstanding schools.

I've said many times you cannot spit in Durham city without hitting an outstanding school and there were surplus places in that city and I couldn't understand the reasoning behind setting up another school.

I consistently raised the fact that the school has never been more than half full in both the year groups, seven and eight, and therefore the cost of pupils was in excess of £80,000 per pupil.

I know applications to Durham County Council to other schools from parents of existing pupils was both regular and even excessive right from the day the school opened in September 2013.

But my real concerns, and I raised this with (Mrs Morgan) in November, which is why things, I think, have progressed very quickly, were around the staffing of the school.

There are many good teachers at that school and they're now going to find it difficult to find other employment and I'm sorry for that.

But as a former senior education officer in the North East, I was aware that there were very high levels of teachers working at the Durham Free School that I knew had already been through competency procedures with other local authorities.

A headteacher in the region told me that the school had become a haven for every bad teacher in the North East."

Ms Glass said she was also concerned about the school's £4 million cost over 15 months and the negative impact on its pupils and other schools in Durham.

The allegation came as city MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said most people fighting its closure - ordered by the Education Secretary last week - had no direct knowledge of the school.