Pupils and teachers have voiced their strong support for a Christian school which has been earmarked for closure by Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary.
According to a report from the Christian Institute, Ms Morgan has pledged to close down the Durham Free School after claims of homophobic bullying.
One of the parents backing the school, Alison Pearson, who is herself a lesbian, has been vocal in her support of the school against the claims, which were made by Ofsted, the schools’ regulator.
Ms Pearson said her daughter, Amy, had been ‘victimised’ at a previous school because of Ms Pearson’s sexuality, but claimed that there had been no victimisation or bullying at the Durham Free School.
She said, ‘Amy is doing well. She loves it. She is upset because she does not want to move schools again’.
Ms Morgan threatened to close the school after a scathing report from Ofsted, which claimed that the Durham school was tolerating a homophobic culture. The report has been widely criticised, as has the way in which the inspectors interrogated the children and staff.
According to the Christian Institute, inspections had been triggered following accusations from the former head teacher, who was sacked last year, allegedly for poor performance.
Parents and teachers have firmly opposed Ofsted’s claims and protested against the Education Secretary’s decision to withdraw the school’s funding. The chair of governors, John Denning, told the Sunday Times that the school was in the process of taking legal advice.
This follows a similar series of complaints against the way in which Ofsted interrogated children and staff at the nearby Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland, before issuing a report claiming homophobic attitudes. Chris Gray, principal of Grindon Hall, has also made a formal complaint to Ofsted.
During a hearing of the Education Select Committee in January, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, defended the action of the inspectors and claimed that parents’ complaints about the conduct of inspectors were false. According to the Christian Institute, other faith schools have been facing increasing scrutiny from the government-led Ofsted.
Rabbi Nathaniel Lieberman is reported to have told a meeting of Jewish primary school teachers that the schools’ regulator’s aims were a ‘hodge-podge’ of ideals and it was ‘looking for a pretext’ for inspectors to turn up unannounced.