Schools with a religious ethos are being unfairly treated by Ofsted inspection teams, the Roman Catholic education agency has told MPs.
The Catholic Education Service (CES), which represents over 2,000 Roman Catholic schools in England, made the complaint in a written submission to the House of Commons Education Committee.
Ofsted came under fire earlier this year for issuing a report which led to the closure of a north-east Christian school – despite the claims made by inspectors being fiercely disputed by staff, parents and pupils.
In its submission to the Education Committee, the CES wrote:
“We are concerned about the lack of consistency in inspection outcomes and believe that more guidance is needed to support inspectors.
“There is evidence that some inspection teams are starting with inaccurate presumptions about Catholic schools which are unfairly influencing their inspection.”
It outlined the concerns of a number of head teachers, that “there sometimes appears to be a starting presumption that Catholic schools will be less good at dealing with certain issues, for example homophobic bullying”.
We are anxious that simply having a religious character may in itself become a red flag for Ofsted which would be grossly unfair.Catholic EducationService
The CES said, “it does sometimes appear that Ofsted probe more thoroughly in Catholic schools than they do in other non-denominational schools even when the evidence points towards a Catholic school performing well in this area”.
The submission continued: “We are anxious that simply having a religious character may in itself become a red flag for Ofsted which would be grossly unfair.”
At the end of March, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan closed The Durham Free School, despite being urged not to by parents, pupils and teachers.
Earlier in the year, Ofsted inspectors claimed to have found evidence of homophobia and racism.
An official complaint was made against the schools’ regulator, accusing inspectors of asking a range of inappropriate questions to children, including: “Have you had ‘The Talk’?” and “Have you learned how to make a baby?”.
One mother, 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”.
Last year St Benedict’s School, a Roman Catholic school in Bury St Edmunds, was told it was failing to uphold ‘British values’ after a snap inspection by Ofsted.
The schools’ regulator claimed that younger children at the school “show less awareness of the dangers of extremism and radicalisation”.
However, in a revised version of Ofsted’s report on the school, published in November, Ofsted made no mention of the issue.
Last year, the Government issued controversial new schools standards regulations, which have led to some faith schools reporting intrusive and inappropriate questioning of pupils as young as six.