Were emergency inspections of private schools triggered by religious extremism fears?

Janet Downs's picture
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62 emergency inspections of private schools took place in the financial year 2012/13 and some were prompted by religious extremism fears, wrote TES.

But did Ofsted find any evidence of religious extremism?

I found about 15 reports for emergency independent school inspections – a small proportion of the 62 emergency inspections which were carried out.

Ofsted advice says emergency inspection reports are only published if the concerns which triggered the inspection are justified or the school fails to meet statutory regulations for independent schools. However, the Ofsted Annual Report 2011/12* on independent school inspections says:

“Emergency inspections may be unannounced and reports of these inspections are only published at the request of the Secretary of State.”

It’s unclear, then, whether the 40+ unpublished inspection reports are missing because inspectors found no problems or whether Education Secretary, Michael Gove, didn’t request publication.

Emergency inspections can be triggered by concerns about such things as pupil welfare, safeguarding and statutory compliance. Common findings were:

1 No suitable accommodation for medical examinations or sick and injured pupils.

2 No facilities for older pupils to shower after PE.

3 Not complying with regulations about complaints procedures.

However, there were more serious findings about health, safety and welfare of pupils. Shortcomings at Stanbridge Earls School were so grave they triggered an Ofsted review which found weaknesses in Ofsted systems. Three boarding schools were criticised:

1 The Duke of York’s Royal Military School, Dover, didn’t meet minimum standards including safeguarding. These have been addressed but some areas still need improvement.

2 Jamia Al Hudaa, Sheffield, a boarding school for Muslim boys age 11-18, had poor quality accommodation. Fire regulations were not met and child protection training was not robust. A later monitoring visit found concerns had been addressed except fire regulations.

3 Markazul Uloom, Blackburn (now closed) provided Islamic education for children aged 11-16. Inspectors ruled “the boarding accommodation is not fit for purpose…the quality of boarding is currently wholly inadequate.”

Ofsted made similar criticisms of day schools. The Ayesha Siddiqa Girls’ School, Southall, a secondary school for Muslim girls, failed to meet “a number of regulations to ensure students’ welfare, health and safety” and the school’s procedures for appointing staff lacked “robustness”. The Eden Independent School, Hanwell, a Seventh Day Adventist independent all-age school was told to make arrangements to “safeguard and promote the welfare and safety of pupils”. Arrangements to safeguard pupils’ welfare at Wathen Grange School, Warwickshire, an 11-18 school for pupils with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties (BESD) placed pupils “at risk of harm”.

This limited evidence shows fears of religious extremism didn’t trigger emergency inspections for the schools with published reports for the financial year 2012/13. And Ofsted didn’t mention any problems in the reports.

However, there’s still the question about the unpublished emergency reports. It’s likely that some of these would have found no cause for concern but 40+ out of 62 is a large proportion. To allay suspicion, Ofsted should publish all emergency inspection reports without delay and set up a search facility so that emergency inspections can be found easily.

 

Disclaimer: It’s possible that some reports were published but I didn’t find them. I didn’t check Children’s Homes, for example, because they’re not strictly schools and there were over 2,000 of them.

*Ofsted Annual Report 2011/12 on independent school inspections downloadable here.

All Ofsted reports downloadable from Ofsted website.

 
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