Sir Michael Wilshaw: Parents’ concerns are a ‘smokescreen’

The head of Ofsted has maintained his denials that school inspectors have been guilty of asking inappropriate questions at faith schools around the country.

Writing for The Independent, Sir Michael Wilshaw said he regarded the criticisms as an attempt by school leaders to cover up their own weaknesses.

Last week, when speaking to the Education Select Committee, he dismissed claims of intrusive questioning by his inspectors, saying the claims had been “thoroughly investigated”.


In the article, the Ofsted chief rejected the repeated and widespread criticism of the schools’ regulator as “a smokescreen” for Ofsted’s poor rating of the schools concerned.

Allegations of inappropriate questioning at a number of schools, including Grindon Hall Christian School and The Durham Free School have been made by headteachers, governors, parents and children.

Wilshaw said anyone reading such reports “would be forgiven for thinking Ofsted is rampaging through the education system on an aggressively secular mission to tear up the very fabric of England’s proud faith school tradition”.

Age-appropriate language

According to the Ofsted head, inspectors understood “the need to behave with sensitivity and integrity when talking to young people”.

He also recognised that inspectors had to “couch their questions using age-appropriate language that the children would understand”.

However, earlier this week guidance emerged which steers inspectors to ask children as young as four about homosexuality and transsexualism.


Inspectors are instructed to ask pupils about different types of families including having “two mums or two dads” but there is no reference to families with both a mum and a dad.

Primary-aged children can also be asked “if there is someone born a girl who would rather be a boy, or born a boy who would like to be a girl” and whether those individuals would feel “safe” at school.

Michael Wilshaw’s repeated denials of inappropriate conduct by Ofsted inspectors are in stark contrast to the concerns of parents, teachers and pupils.

Aggressive’ questioning

Inspectors visiting The 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 “Have you learned how to make a baby?”

At Grindon Hall school, parents objected to questions their children were asked by Ofsted inspectors. Children were quizzed about whether they knew what lesbians “did” and if their friends felt trapped in the “wrong body”.

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