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Parents will home-school children if free school closes

Parents outside Durham Free School showed emotion as they said they were 'devastated' by the news that the school will close at Easter.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said funding will stop after it failed to improve following a highly critical Ofsted report in January.

Defiant parents told ITV News Tyne Tees they would continue to fight the closure, and several said if they failed to do so, they would teach their children at home instead.

'Sufficient places' for Durham Free School pupils

Durham County Council says it has identified 'sufficient places' at alternative schools for pupils currently at Durham Free School.

“Our school admissions team has identified sufficient places at local schools, all of which are rated as at least good by Ofsted, for every student currently studying at this school or who has indicated it as their first choice for this September.

“Many parents have already been in touch and of those a number have also applied for an alternative school place. We will work with parents and receiving schools to ensure that pupils have the smoothest possible transition to their new place of study.

“Any parents who would like support and advice on this can speak with the schools admissions team on 03000 265 896.”

– Caroline O’Neill - Durham County Council

Durham Free School 'to close at Easter'

Durham Free School

Durham Free School is to close at Easter, the Department for Education has announced.

The flagship Free School was told last month that its funding agreement would be terminated if it failed to swiftly come up with an action plan to raise standards.

A fresh letter, published today, says that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan does not believe that the Trust running the school has shown enough evidence that it can bring about improvements.

The school, which has a Christian ethos and opened in September 2013 with just 94 pupils, received a highly critical Ofsted report after an inspection at the end of last year.

Inspectors gave it the lowest ratings for leadership. teaching, behaviour and achievement, placing it in special measures.

In response the school questioned many of Ofsted's findings.

Today's letter, signed by Janet Renou, regional schools commissioner for the North, and addressed to chair of governors John Denning, says:

"Having considered the academy trust's representations, the Secretary of State does not consider that you have provided sufficient evidence to show that the academy trust has the capacity or a suitable strategy to bring about the necessary improvements at Durham Free School. The representations put forward did not full demonstrate that the Trust is seriously addressing weaknesses in areas such as safeguarding pupils, poor attendance, quality of teaching and dealing with a "culture of intolerance of people who have different faiths, values or beliefs."

The letter goes on to say: "In short, your representations have not convinced the Secretary of State that the current governing body and leadership team have the capability to turn the school around swiftly so that it will give its pupils an acceptable standard of education."

It concludes: "We have given careful thought to the effect on pupils of having to move to another school; and we have sought to keep any disruption to a minimum by liaising with Durham County Council regarding provision of alternative school places. With this in mind, the Secretary of State has set the date for termination at the end of the spring term."<

In a statement, the school's chair of governors John Denning said: "It is important that parents are informed by the school of the content of the Regional School's Commissioner letter, and that is our priority at this time. The trust is also consulting its legal advisers."

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MPs to debate performance of Durham Free School

The performance of Durham Free School will be debated by MPs next week.

Labour's Durham city MP Roberta Blackman-Woods will lead the debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday (27 January). A minister from the Department for Education will also take part.

This comes after Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced plans to close the school. That decision was prompted by the school getting the lowest possible rating in an Ofsted inspection.

Opening of Durham Free School

Durham Free School is set to opens its doors for the first time today.

It follows a two-year campaign by families who were struggling to get their children into Durham Johnston School who then went on to set up their own school.

The Durham Free School (DFS) will open in the former Durham Gilesgate Sports College in Gilesgate.

Nine teachers will care for 31 year seven pupils from Durham, Bowburn, Coxhoe, Spennymoor and elsewhere.

The school will be funded by and responsible to the Department for Education.