The Nishkam primary free school ‘requires improvement’
The Nishkam primary ‘free school’ in Handsworth, Birmingham’s first free school, opened in September 2011. It claims on its website that ‘The primary purpose of the school is the drive for academic excellence. This is exceptionally important in our aspirations for pupils to exceed national standards.’
AABA campaigned against the free school opening. Now we have been proved right. The Nishkam school has just comprehensively failed its Ofsted inspection.
It rated Nishkam Primary as ‘requiring improvement’ in all of the main areas – achievement of pupils, quality of teaching, behaviour and safety of pupils, and leadership and management. (Birmingham Mail report, 20 July). The report concluded that the school needed to raise standards because ‘there is not enough teaching which is good enough to enable pupils to learn as quickly as they should’. Inspectors were also critical of the school’s leadership, saying leaders and governors did not have a clear understanding of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.
That last comment was vividly confirmed by the bizarre response of headteacher Damian McBeath to the report. With the aplomb of an alchemist believing he has turned lead into gold, he said: “We are delighted that the hard work and dedication of staff, parents and pupils have been recognised by Ofsted. The academy has only been open since September 2011 and from the outset, we have focused on delivering the highest-quality education for our pupils.’
In fact what makes the school’s failure all the more unacceptable is that Nishkam creams off children from the better-off homes in the area, taking a much lower proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals than other local schools, giving it statistically a huge advantage. In 2012 just 6.4% of children were eligible for free lunches. But the average figure for the 18 primary schools in Handsworth was 43.5% and the figure for St Michael’s, the school next door to Nishkam, was 47%.
Nishkam should be a warning to parents in Birmingham – say no to free schools, support your local authority schools.