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'Riotous' pupils at Newcastle free school roamed around like predators, inspection finds

Photo: NCJ Media

An Ofsted inspection at a £9m free school found a hard core of pupils displayed "riotous behaviour" and roamed the premises in a "predatory manner".

The Discovery School in Newcastle, which hit the headlines after losing a pupil on a trip to London, announced earlier this month that it was to close ahead of another damning report from the education watchdog.

A copy of that Ofsted inspection, seen by ITV Tyne Tees, rated it as "inadequate" and revealed:

  • Leaders have not been able to make necessary improvements and it has "hit rock bottom"
  • Pupils lacked respect for each other and staff, children felt unsafe and "the frequency of dangerous and unacceptable behaviour is shockingly high"
  • Last year progress made by Year 11 pupils was in the bottom 1% nationally and below Government minimum standards

The city centre school has 228 pupils aged 13-19 but has the capacity for 700 and has been beset by deep-set problems.

In more detailed findings about behaviour, Ofsted inspectors reported: "A hard core of pupils display riotous behaviour and they roam the school in a predatory manner.

"The small numbers of girls and others who are singled out as different are vulnerable and do not always feel safe."

They also said Year 9 pupils at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths specialist school were "barred from using machinery or the computer suite because of safety concerns and their poor behaviour".

Senior staff took pride in the Discovery being different, setting out to make working day more like a job than a traditional school.

Before these latest Ofsted findings emerged, it announced it was to close in August after just four years and measures were being taken to find places for pupils elsewhere.

Clearly this Ofsted report makes for difficult reading and the depth and severity of the comments were a key factor in the decision to close the school.

Efforts to improve performance and results failed in the short term and young people's education is not something you can put on hold while you seek change.

We believe the best interests of the pupils and their families would now be served by allowing them to put this behind them and move on with their education elsewhere."

– Spokesperson
Labour MP Chi Onwurah Credit: David Parry/PA Archive/PA Images

Labour MP Chi Onwurah has said the Ofsted report left her "horrified".

She visited the Discovery School three years ago and was struck by its impressive labs and equipment, including 3D printers.

The MP, who has an electrical engineering degree, remembered a pupil who made a 70-mile round trip every day to attend the specialist science school.

I am horrified by the Ofsted report. It is incredibly sad and frustrating that this should happen.

When I visited I remember having a tour of their labs and machine rooms and being so impressed by the equipment.

I thought it was the kind of thing that would inspire kids into engineering and manufacturing."

– Labour MP Chi Onwurah