Christian Concern has blasted ‘inappropriate behaviour’ shown by Ofsted inspectors after a batch inspection, with barely any notice, judged Christian schools to be failing.
Ten schools, supported by Christian Education Europe (CEE) were inspected on 16-18 October 2016 with just one day’s notice. The reports became public during December. Schools which had previously been judged as ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ were marked as ‘inadequate’ and ‘requires improvement’.
However, the educators have claimed the behaviour of the Ofsted inspectors was wrong. Chris Oakey, principal of Luton Pentecostal Church Christian Academy, said students were questioned behind closed doors about ‘British values’ and their beliefs about human sexuality.
Mr Oakley said one of his pupils described the questioning as ‘patronising’ and said it was ‘entrapment’. Wesley Richards, chairman of the management board at the King’s House School, Windsor, said that, in a curriculum meeting, an inspector asked the teachers, ‘Do you teach about other religions or do you pretend they don’t exist?’
Eventually, the King’s House School was judged ‘inadequate’ on safeguarding. Mr Richards added: ‘We are always looking to improve our school and welcome feedback from Ofsted about how we can better serve the children in our care. However, we are concerned about the conduct of the inspectors and the double standards by which they work.
‘We were criticised for our safeguarding, while inspectors are allowed to interview our children behind closed doors, without a teacher present and without parental consent. We were unable to verify what questions were asked or the manner in which they were put to the children. Our teachers are required to leave doors ajar or blinds up if they happen to be the only adult present — something Ofsted does not practice’.
According to Christian Concern, Ofsted said the Department for Education asked it to do a batch inspection of schools teaching the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum. But the schools received no explanation as to why ten schools supported by CEE were inspected on the same day.
The reports praised the behaviour and character of the pupils, the ability of pupils to think independently, and the high esteem in which parents hold the schools. No parent has removed their child from any of the schools as a result of the inspections.
Ofsted inspectors also criticised the Bible-based curriculum, and said there were issues with ‘safeguarding’ and ‘leadership’, adding that ‘a number of these schools were not promoting British values effectively enough’.
The schools say the reports create a misleading picture of the education they provide and are seeking legal advice from the Christian Legal Centre. Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said: ‘Ofsted has gone too far. The behaviour of the inspectors is inappropriate and hypocritical, and Ofsted is wrongly applying state school standards to independent schools.
‘Ofsted is critical of the Christian belief system within the schools, and yet it is this very belief system that is the foundation of schools across this country. The standards of “British values” are being misapplied and undermining an invaluable element of our nation’s heritage — Christian education. Parents are free to educate their children in accordance with their own religious beliefs, and this freedom must be protected.
‘Far from being an independent and impartial regulator, Ofsted is driven by political ideology and those not following this ideology are now liable to be punished’.