Parents have reacted with shock and disbelief to an Ofsted report which downgraded a successful Christian school.
Last night hundreds of parents gathered at Grindon Hall Christian School, Sunderland, to fight back against Ofsted’s claims of racist and homophobic language and bullying.
BBC Look North 18:30 Bulletin
Several parents spoke to the BBC’s Look North programme after the event, expressing their support for the school which has some of the best GCSE results in the area.
One mother said everybody agreed that what had happened was “an absolute disgrace”.
She said that Grindon Hall is “an absolutely wonderful school” and described Ofsted’s claims of racism and homophobia as “just incredible”.
She spoke of a parent who stood up at the meeting and described how their child had been bullied in five different schools because they were thought to be gay.
She added: “They’ve come to our school and it’s the only school they’ve never been bullied at for being gay.”
Dr Lena Wilkinson, a British-born Indian, stressed that her children have never been targeted because of their race.
She said: “My children went to a school previously where they had a good Ofsted report and they weren’t performing very well academically, they were bullied and they were unhappy”.
Since coming to Grindon Hall, she continued, “they’ve excelled academically and the bullying has stopped”.
In an interview with the Daily Mail this week, Mrs Wilkinson said that her daughter had been upset by the questioning of Ofsted inspectors.
She said: “The questioning was completely inappropriate. They asked her what lesbians were, and whether she felt trapped in someone else’s body.”
Her ten-year-old daughter Ariella has been “crying a lot over it. She thinks the bad Ofsted report is her fault”.
Inappropriate questioning was also reported after an inspection at another North-east school.
Inspectors visiting Durham Free School were said to have adopted an “aggressive” questioning technique when talking to pupils.
Questions asked to 11 to 13-year-olds included: “Have you had ‘The Talk’?” and “How have you learned how to make a baby?”
In its report, Ofsted branded Durham Free School “Inadequate”.
The County Durham school is preparing to mount a legal challenge against the Department for Education after it was announced this week that its funding would be withdrawn.
In December, Chris Gray, the principal of Grindon Hall, made a formal complaint to Ofsted over their “hostile” inspection.
This morning a statement by the schools’ regulator recognised that allegations about the conduct of the inspection team were serious but said that to date they had found no evidence to indicate its inspectors had failed to act appropriately.
Ofsted’s National Director for Schools, Sean Harford, recently responded to criticisms over the reliability of inspections. He acknowledged that some inspectors were basing their decisions on a “narrow range of data” and were failing to make “fully rounded, professional judgements”.