Ofsted is continuing to deny that it’s inspectors are asking young children inappropriate questions on topics such as homosexuality and transgenderism, despite a number of parents coming forward to make complaints in the last few months.
The questions have been justified by Ofsted cheifs as a way of ensuring that schools meet the requirement to promote ‘British values’ following the Trojan Horse plot, but now it has emerged that internal documents advised inspectors to quiz young pupils on these subjects as early as 2012.
Over the last few weeks Breitbart London has reported on the case of two Christian schools, Grindon Hall (a Free School) and Durham Free School, both of whom have been downgraded by snap Ofsted inspections over their failure to promote other faiths and homosexual lifestyles. Parents and teachers at the schools have accused Ofsted of persecuting the schools for following a Christian ethos.
Labour MP Alex Cunningham, who sits on the Commons Education subcommittee has said that one parent contacted him to report that their young daughter had been asked by an inspector whether she was a virgin. “Some parents are claiming there seems to be a political agenda – that Ofsted have got it in for Christian schools,” Cunningham told his colleagues on the committee.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector, has denied that claim. “Absolutely not,” he told the committee. “We’re going into schools in Birmingham, Bradford, Luton, Tower Hamlets with children from predominantly Asian heritage, predominantly Muslim. We’re failing those schools and putting them into special measures. We’re saying tough things because they’re not promoting British values, they’re narrowing the curriculum. We’re going to apply exactly those principles to all schools.”
Regarding the accusations that parents of pupils at Grindon Hall and Durham Free School had leveled at inspectors, over their use of inappropriate questioning, Sir Wilshaw said “We found no evidence to suggest that inspectors used inappropriate language or terminology to these children. These two schools are doing badly. Parents deserve better.”
Children from Grindon Hall School are expected to visit Parliament this week to hand in personal letters asking for their poor report to be retracted.
And the parents at Durham Free School, which is being forced to close thanks to a poor Ofsted inspection causing funds to be withdrawn by the Department of Education, are conducting a letter writing campaign pleading with education secretary Nicky Morgan to keep the school open. A number of the children transferred to the school as they were suffering bullying in larger local comprehensives, and, according to their parents, have “blossomed” in the new school.
“My daughter has blossomed into the person I know she wants to be. She feels like she’s got something valuable to offer and the other kids appreciate her for who she is. I don’t think there is any other school I would be happy about her going to now,” wrote one parent.
“It upsets me that the negative comments detract from the fact that the school offers parents an alternative choice and that it exists for the children. It seems to me there are a lot of people out there with agendas that don’t actually care about the real well being of the kids.”
Sir Wilshaw has dismissed these testimonies however, airily telling the committee “Parents always try to support their school.”
However, despite Sir Wilshaw’s denials, evidence has emerged that inspectors were instructed to ask intrusive questions regarding sexuality and faith as early as 2012. According to the Daily Mail, a briefing for inspectors published in January of that year advised them that they could interrogate primary school children about homophobic bullying, including the use of the word “gay” within the school.
In September 2013 that advice was solidified within a new document titled Exploring The School’s Actions to Prevent and Tackle Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying. It included guidance such as “With primary pupils inspectors might explore whether pupils ever hear anyone use the word “gay” when describing something, or whether they have been told by teachers that using the word “gay”, to mean something is rubbish, is wrong, scary or unpleasant and why it is wrong.”
It also advised inspectors to ask junior school children whether they were ever bullied for not acting like a “typical boy” or “typical girl”, and to ask children whether they ever had lessons about different types of families, such as ones with two mums, two dads, or living with grandparents.
According to the document, however, “Inspectors should make sure that questions are age-appropriate and asked in the right context.”
The advice was reissued in April 2014, updated to include suggestions that inspectors might discuss with young pupils whether “someone born a girl who would rather be a boy, or born a boy who would like to be a girl” would “feel safe at school and be included”.
In September of 2014, the new School Inspection Handbook was introduced replacing the “briefing for section 5 inspections” and other documents. It made no mention of these sorts of questions. Nonetheless, two months later, when Grindon Hall and Durham Free School were inspected, children at both those schools were asked questions such as whether they knew what lesbians “did” (posed to a 10 year old girl), and whether they had ever been encouraged to celebrate the festivals of other faiths, such as Eid.
Simon Calvert, of The Christian Institute charity, said: “It does look like Ofsted inspectors continue to be influenced by this guidance.
“Sir Michael Wilshaw needs to take responsibility for the actions of his inspectors. He also has to take responsibility for the fact that guidance has been issued that has created a culture within Ofsted where inspectors think it’s appropriate to talk to young children in these ways.”
An Ofsted spokesman said: “Last year, Ofsted replaced a number of individual guidance documents with a new, single inspection handbook, in line with our new approach to placing more emphasis on training for inspectors rather than a reliance on extensive written guidance.”