Parents, pupils and teachers have voiced their strong support for a Christian school which Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has pledged to close.
Alison Pearson, a lesbian herself, was quick to defend The Durham Free School after claims of homophobic bullying by schools’ regulator Ofsted.
Ofsted has been under fire for intrusive questioning by inspectors at the Durham school and nearby Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland.
Alison said that her daughter Amy was victimised at a previous school because of her mother’s sexuality but not at The Durham Free School.
She said: “Amy’s doing very well – she loves it. She’s upset because she doesn’t want to move schools again.”
Her defence of the school comes after a report by Ofsted claiming that leaders at the school tolerated a homophobic culture.
Inspections were triggered following accusations from the former head teacher who was sacked last year for poor performance.
Parents and teachers have firmly opposed Ofsted’s claims and have protested against the Education Secretary’s decision to withdraw the school’s funding.
The chair of governors, John Denning, told The Sunday Times that the school is “in the process of taking legal advice”.
Show of support
Dozens of staff, parents and children gathered at the school on Monday in a show of support.
Ofsted inspectors have been strongly criticised by parents for inappropriately questioning their children.
Deborah Finch told the Daily Mail that she “could not believe” what her eleven-year-old daughter Grace had been asked.
She said: “She was asked if she knew any lesbians and whether any family members had gay friends. At one point she was even asked whether she had ever felt she was in the wrong body”.
The mother said that Grace felt “very embarrassed and uncomfortable” and “under pressure as though she was being forced to sit some kind of test”.
The principal of Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland, Chris Gray, made a formal complaint to Ofsted after pupils there underwent similar intrusive questioning.
Ofsted alleged that inspectors found evidence of homophobic bullying at Grindon Hall, a claim that was quickly rejected by parents.
Several parents spoke to the BBC’s Look North programme after a meeting at the school, expressing their support for Grindon Hall.
According to one mother, another parent 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.”