Free school in special measures faces ‘tough action’ if it fails to improve, DfE warns

IES Breckland
IES Breckland
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Education bosses have warned they will take ‘tough action’ unless improvements are made at a free school which has been rated inadequate and placed in special measures by Ofsted.

The Department for Education says it expects IES Breckland, which is run by a private Swedish company, to make ‘rapid improvements’ after Ofsted found teaching and pupil behaviour to be ‘inadequate’.

Community leaders, including West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock, have expressed ‘disappointment’ over the findings.

Meanwhile, International English Schools (IES) UK, which won a contract worth up to £21 million to run the school, says improvement plans are already in place with new staff recruited, including principal Alison Tilbrook.

Following an inspection in January, Ofsted ruled the departure of key staff at IES Breckland, including former principal Sherry Zand, ‘seriously disrupted the education provided by the school’. However, noting the school’s strengths, they found ‘standards in mathematics are generally high’ and ‘some teaching is outstanding which helps a few students to make exceptional progress’.

IES revealed the results ahead of the report’s publication – expected yesterday.

In a statement, Mrs Tilbrook said: “The changes we are now making in the school will have positive effects which will be felt by all. The task given to me as principal, which I have been glad to take, is to turn around the fortunes of this school, to support staff to improve, and to make beneficial recruitment decisions.”

District councillor Bill Bishop, who is a member of the Sabres Educational Trust, which is responsible for the school, said: “It was a difficult situation when Ofsted came in as we just lost the principal and six teachers. I have every confidence the new principal will sort out what problems there was.”

District councillor Eddie Stewart, former chairman of Sabres, said: “I’m disappointed it had a bad Ofsted. I think they will turn it around.”

County councillor Reg Silvester said IES Breckland was ‘too small’ for a senior school.

Martin Campbell, a spokesman for the Suffolk Coalition Opposing Free Schools, said the report was ‘utterly damning’ and was ‘not convinced the plan for recovery is at all robust’.

Mr Hancock said: “Having campaigned for years to keep our school in Brandon, this Ofsted report is clearly disappointing but I am glad that IES Breckland has already taken steps to address points raised and it is important that the school has ackowledged it needs to improve.”

A DfE spokesman added: “As with any school found to be inadequate, we now expect the trust to make rapid improvements and we will not hesitate to take tough action if they fail to do so.”