A free school that claims to offer the “very best education that the 21st century can provide” has been placed into special measures by Ofsted after it failed to enter a single Year 11 pupil into GCSE exams.
Inspectors slammed Route 39 Academy’s “unreasonable and unorthodox” decision to hold back the entire year, rating the Devon school “inadequate” in all four of the areas it measures.
The academy says it “strongly refutes” the judgement, telling the watchdog that it had held students back because they were “neither academically ready nor sufficiently mature or resilient” to sit the exams.
Referencing what school leaders had told inspectors, the Ofsted report reads: “They state that, had they taken the examinations at the usual time, these pupils would have significantly under-performed and attained at low levels.
“This is an admission that the school’s curriculum and its delivery have not met the needs of pupils by ensuring that they make good progress and are ready for the next stage of their education, employment or training.”
According to inspectors, the decision not to enter pupils into exams was “in breach of statutory requirements and the school’s own funding agreement”.
They also criticised the school’s safeguarding of pupils and described student attendance rates as “poor”, saying the problem had worsened over the last year.
Route 39 Academy, which opened its doors as a secondary school in 2013, was started by a group of local parents in 2011.
According to Ofsted, it currently teaches 131 pupils between the ages of 11 and 18.
In a letter to parents, the school’s governing body said that it had challenged Ofsted over its report and issued a complaint.
“There was a disproportionate focus on our decision to enter 13 Year 11 students for GCSEs in 2018, and a lack of adherence to Ofsted’s own Inspection Handbook,” the letter read.
According to the Press Association, the academy added that the pupils who did not take their GCSEs this summer had “unsettled Year 7 at other schools and wanted a new start”.
“Some parents felt that their children - who came to Route 39 Academy with low attainment - would benefit from an extra year academically and emotionally.”