You can’t have missed the furore after two free schools, Grindon Hall Christian School and Durham Free School, were put into special measures. The schools retaliated by claiming pupils were asked inappropriate questions about sex, homosexuality and faith. These allegations prompted the Daily Mail
to claim Ofsted inspectors were deliberately undermining Christian schools. The paper was so incensed it did a ‘Special Report’ featuring six schools which it alleges have been downgraded because of Ofsted prejudice.
But the Mail
’s claims need investigation.
Grindon Hall and Durham Free School
have problems beyond alleged inappropriate questioning which Ofsted has in any case denied
. As well as the negative inspection judgements, both schools were given Financial Notices to Improve. And the Financial Statements of Grindon Hall (y/e 31 August 2013)* contained a remark by the independent auditor which showed money had not been used 'as intended by Parliament'.
Trinity Christian School
was allegedly told by Inspectors in October it faced closure because it hadn't asked imams to take assembly. It is impossible to verify the school's allegations because no recent Ofsted report has been published. The school, which is registered for eight children aged 4-8, was judged Good in November 2013 when it had just two pupils. It now has three.
claimed an ‘initial report’ for St Benedict's Catholic School
said younger pupils showed a lack of awareness about ‘the dangers of extremism and radicalisation’. It appears the 'initial report' was an unfinalised report
which the school published on its website. The only report that matters is the final version published on Ofsted's website. Inspectors downgraded the school (from Good to Requires Improvement) but this was nothing to do with lack of awareness about extremism. The final report actually said the school's promotion of 'respect for and tolerance of others' was a strength.
Market Rasen Primary School
was ‘marked down’ because it didn't give pupils 'first-hand experience' of children from other backgrounds. But the school wasn’t ‘marked down’. It was upgraded from Requires Improvement to Good. It missed out on Outstanding for three reasons: one is the much publicised reason above. The other two criticisms related to teaching.
Beis Yaakov High School
complained to Ofsted that pupils were asked questions about homosexuality, wrote the Mail. But inspectors found more things wrong than failing to adequately raise 'awareness and tolerance’ of other communities. Failings included recruitment procedures which were too informal, low attendance, insufficient careers information, restricted option choices and opaque financial records.
It appears, then, the Mail’s evidence for a witch hunt against Christian schools is based on allegations from two free schools judged Inadequate for a variety of reasons, a Roman Catholic school praised for promoting respect and tolerance, a tiny independent school whose Ofsted report hasn’t yet been published, a secular school upgraded to Good and a Jewish school with several weaknesses.
I’m no fan of Ofsted as regular readers will know. However, the present uproar about Ofsted's agenda is overblown, out of proportion and hysterical.
*I can’t provide a direct link but if an online search will find it.
All inspection reports can be found on Gov.UK
15.27 The qualifying statement on Grindon Hall's Financial Statements for the year ending 31 August 2013 says (P15):
'£38,271 of general annual grant was used to settle liabilities of the old independent school...While it is accepted that this was intended as a temporary arrangement...those funds were considered for a period of time, not to have been applied for the purposes intended by parliament'
The auditor's assurance report was signed by the Senior Statutory Auditor of an independent firm of auditors.