Ofsted’s inspection of a Jewish school which left young girls feeling “severely shaken” has been slammed by media commentators.
Girls at the Yesodey Hatorah school in London said they were made to feel extremely uncomfortable by the repeated ‘attacking’ questions they faced on sex.
The inspection prompted Revd Giles Fraser – a former Guardian columnist – and Melanie Phillips – who writes for The Times – to launch stinging rebukes to both Ofsted and the Government.
Revd Giles Fraser said the schools regulator has “failed to understand the most basic feature of their own values: respect and toleration”.
And Melanie Phillips warned that the Government was being “profoundly intolerant” in its efforts to “eradicate” religious differences.
The row follows continued controversy surrounding Ofsted, whose head recently said she wanted to pursue “muscular liberalism”.
Writing on the Unherd website, Revd Fraser explained that the Jewish school has values that are distinct from the mainstream secular view, “not least when it comes to sex education”.
But he said “Ofsted inspectors obviously came with a fixed agenda, they wanted to talk to the girls about sex”.
A young woman at the school said the process felt “like an attack”, while one parent has said their daughters “came home severely shaken” after the Ofsted visit.
Writing in The Jewish Chronicle, Melanie Phillips turned her fire on the Government.
She said ministers are trying to “eradicate” the existence of religious difference: “A policy ostensibly against intolerance is therefore itself profoundly intolerant.”
Jews are ‘paying the price’, she commented, in the efforts to target the threat from Islamic terrorists.
“To the secular mind”, she wrote, “all cultures that reject liberal assumptions are an equal threat”.
In February, Ofsted was criticised after its Chief Inspector – Amanda Spielman – called for the promotion of a “muscular liberalism”.
The Christian Institute said the schools’ watchdog must not use the comments as an opportunity to enforce aggressive secularism.
In 2015 primary-aged pupils at a Christian school in Sunderland faced questions from Ofsted about homosexual practice.
In the same year another Christian school – The Durham Free School – was closed by the Government after a controversial Ofsted inspection.
Parents, pupils and teachers reacted with disbelief after Ofsted inspectors claimed to have found evidence of homophobia and racism.
More than 50 pupils wrote to the Government pleading with them not to close the school. But the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan went ahead with the plans.