1. ITV Report

Government closes flagship free school in West Sussex

A general view of Discovery New School in Crawley, West Sussex Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire

The Department for Education has announced plans to close one of the country's first free schools citing "grave concerns about the standards of education" it was offering.

The Discovery New School in Crawley, West Sussex has around 70 pupils who will all have to find new schools by April 4 next year.

Explaining the decision, schools minister Lord Nash said that "none of the school's teachers were delivering good lessons and all were still consistently inadequate or required improvement".

But parents have told ITV News of their anger and disappointment at the decision, with many claiming it is a good school where their children are happy.

ITV News' political correspondent Libby Wiener reports:

Discovery New School was among the first 24 free schools to open in the country in September 2011.

The school was rated 'inadequate' in its first Ofsted inspection in May, and the school's headteacher was suspended and an interim head appointed.

Lord Nash said he had expressed "grave concerns" about standards last month and asked the school for a statement on the action they were taking to address this.

Education Secretary Michael Gove was reportedly "not satisfied that the action the academy trust proposes to take is sufficient in all the circumstances".

Parents express their disappointment at the Discovery New School Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Anna Turner-Smith, 38, who has two children in the school, found out about the letter only two minutes before seeing her daughter in a nativity play.

She called the way the announcement had been made "disgusting" and said the Government was "messing with children's lives".

"The school for us has only ever been a positive one. I've never had any problem. My children thrive in here," she said.

The sign at the front of the school Credit: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Finance committee chairman Mark Beard, 43, said he believed the move to close the school was "more about the politicians than the kids".

We feel that we're being brushed under the carpet - get a problem child out of the way before we get too close to a general election campaign.

The decision was premature. It was far too early to show any progress from the changes we were implementing.

– mark beard, finance committee chairman

In a statement, the school said everyone connected to it had worked "tirelessly" to present an improvement plan to the Department for Education (DfE), and that it would be "seeking to understand" why it fell short of expectations.

Conservative MP for Craswley Henry Smith Credit: ITV News

This sentiment was echoed by local Conservative MP Henry Smith, who said he was "deeply disappointed" by the decision and "disturbed by the failure of management and lack of support" given to the school.

The closure is likely to be seen as a major blow to the Government's flagship free schools programme.

There are currently 174 free schools in the country, with a further 102 due to open in 2014 and beyond.

Today's move comes just days after inspectors warned that a second free school, Al-Madinah in Derby, is "in chaos" weeks after it was placed in special measures.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has said the programme was "damaging standards" and that there was a "complete lack of local oversight, transparency and accountability".

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