The Catholic Education Service (CES) is demanding an apology from school of inspectors Ofsted after one of its schools was placed on a blacklist of schools which were failing to prepare students for “life in modern Britain”. The school remains on the blacklist despite a recent Ofsted report being amended to remove suggestions that pupils were vulnerable to radicalisation, the Telegraph has reported.
St Benedict’s Catholic School in Suffolk was one of 35 faith schools to be reassessed in snap inspections, following the revelation of the Trojan Horse plot in which a number of schools in Birmingham were infiltrated by Islamic extremists. The school had previously been rated as “good” as recently as 2013, but this was downgraded to “requires improvement” following the snap inspection.
The initial report said that younger children in particular “show less awareness of the dangers of extremism and radicalisation”, and questioned whether the school prepared pupils “for life and work in modern Britain” – both criticisms also levelled at the Trojan Horse schools. It was placed on a list of 11 schools which were accused of failing to adequately promote British values of tolerance and diversity.
However, in November the report was revised to remove these references. The only remaining criticism levelled was that citizenship classes need to provide “more opportunities for students to consider how negative challenge to modern democratic values may arise and can be overcome”. Yet the school has remained on the blacklist.
This has prompted the Catholic Education Service, an agency of the Roman Catholic Church, to question why the school had been accused of leaving its pupils vulnerable to radicalisation in the first place, and why it has not revised that judgement, despite amending the report.
“We are extremely concerned that Ofsted is publicly listing St Benedict’s as one of the 11 schools which ‘were not preparing pupils for life in Britain today,” said Paul Barber, director of the CES.
“These concerns cannot be found in the school’s Ofsted report. This is an unjust and unsubstantiated accusation and we hope Ofsted will clarify this matter and apologise to the school and parents for the confusion and upset caused.
“We welcome the role of Ofsted in ensuring accountability, transparency and inclusive education for all, regardless of belief. However it is essential that Ofsted provides support and clarification for their own staff on the matter of British Values to prevent mistakes like this from recurring,” he added.
Hugh O’Neill, the school’s head, agreed, branding the report “flawed”. He insisted that Ofsted had offered no evidence to substantiate their claims that the school had failed in its duty to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.
“The continuing accusation that this school is one of a handful identified with radicalisation and extremism concerns is hugely disturbing,” he said. “I think parents and the local community deserve to know why St Benedict’s Catholic School remains at the centre of this Ofsted focus.”
In response, an Ofsted spokeswoman said: “Inspectors found that a number of the schools could have been doing more to prepare pupils for life in Britain today.
“This definition covers a wider range of issues other than dealing effectively with extremism and radicalisation, and includes how a school’s curriculum and other activities raise the pupils’ awareness of different aspects of how our society works.
“Sir Michael Wilshaw is looking forward to meeting representatives from the Catholic Education Service this week as part of his commitment to meet education leaders from the different faith communities to discuss Ofsted’s inspection frameworks and guidance.”
Ofsted has come under increasing criticism for its handling of faith schools, as it appears to be using ‘British values’ as a smokescreen for promoting left-liberal values. In doing so, it is waging war on faith schools which promote traditional values and familial arrangements.
During the snap inspections, which took place at Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith schools, one Year Nine (equivalent to 8th grade) pupil reported that she had been made to feel “uncomfortable and upset” by one inspector who told her that a “woman might choose to live with another woman and a man could choose to live with a man, it’s up to them”.
At the same school, a pupil in Year Eleven (10th grade) said “they made us feel threatened about our religion. They asked ‘Do you have friends from other religions?’ They asked this many times until we answered what they wanted us to say.”
Meanwhile, Trinity Christian School in Reading is facing closure after Ofsted turned down a request to allow it to expand its age range on the grounds that it was not doing enough to actively promote other faiths.
Last year it had been deemed to be doing a good job preparing its young pupils for life in modern Britain, but after new, more rigorous guidelines were brought in after the Trojan Horse scandal, this judgement was revised, and the school downgraded. The headmaster has written to education secretary Nicky Morgan to request that the new guidelines be scrapped.