Discovery New School campaigners go to Downing Street

Discovery New School in Crawley has been told it must close by April

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Parents and pupils from the first free school to be ordered to close have delivered a plea for a reprieve to Downing Street.

They said staff had not been given time to make the required improvements at Discovery New School in Crawley.

Its chair of governors has accused the government of crucifying it rather than allowing it to resolve its problems.

A delegation of parents and pupils handed letters written by pupils to Prime Minister David Cameron's office.

Illiteracy 'risk'

Discovery was put into special measures in May following criticism by an Ofsted inspection team.

FREE SCHOOL FACTS

  • There are 174 of them
  • Set up by parents, teachers and academy chains
  • They have priority for funds over other new schools
  • Average capital cost is £6.6m
  • They receive funds directly from the Department for Education
  • Will be inspected within two years of opening

The team warned there was a risk of children leaving the school unable to read or write.

It was finally ordered to close earlier this month following two more inspections.

Discovery, which was one of the first free schools to open, in 2011, is scheduled to close in April.

Emily Leppenwell, whose daughter, Emily, is one of the school's 68 pupils, said: "The new head had only been in her job for 12 days when Ofsted re-inspected the school.

"Of course not enough change had taken place. The new head had 12 days. We just don't think that's fair. It's not enough time."

Chairman of governors Chris Cook has written separately to the Department for Education accusing Schools Minister Lord Nash of making it a scapegoat for what is widely seen as the rushed implementation of free schools.

He wrote: "All of us, parents, staff, and governors, recognise since Ofsted placed the school in special measures that changes needed to be made."

But he added: "In this season of goodwill we sense that you are prepared to wash your hands and crucify the school rather than engage in a proper conversation of our plans."

Education Secretary Michael Gove told MPs this week: "These are never easy decisions. I sympathise with the parents. But a balance does need to be struck."

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