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Grindon Hall free school vows to fight Ofsted's 'inadequate' judgement

The head of a private faith school that converted to the state sector as a free school has said he will challenge Ofsted’s judgement after inspectors found it to be inadequate and placed it into special measures.

Chris Gray, principal of Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland, has taken the unusual step of publishing the Ofsted report on the school’s website before the watchdog has formally made the document public.

The school hit the headlines last week when it announced it had lodged a complaint against Ofsted’s inspectors, claiming they had asked 10-year-old children if they knew “what lesbians do” and if they knew any girls or boys who felt trapped in the "wrong body".

The school said the questioning was as part of Ofsted's new requirement to look if schools were promoting British values.

The school is the second free school to be placed into special measures in as many days, after the Durham Free School was judged inadequate yesterday. Durham Free School has now been ordered to close by education secretary Nicky Morgan.

Earlier this month, Grindon Hall was warned over its finances and had to be bailed out by the Department for Education.

In a statement, Mr Gray disputed Ofsted's findings, claiming the manner by which the inspectors carried out the inspection was “hostile”.

"The Ofsted report issued to us today will come as a huge shock to our parents, pupils and staff because they – along with anyone who knows us – will not recognise the school portrayed there.

"It is now well known that the manner in which inspectors questioned our pupils in November was hostile, inappropriate and raises serious safeguarding issues. Despite raising these concerns more than a month ago we have yet to receive any response from Ofsted."

Ofsted’s report rated school leadership, pupil behaviour and sixth form provision as inadequate". Teaching, early years provision and achievement were rated as requiring improvement.

It said: "The curriculum does not adequately prepare pupils for life in modern Britain. Pupils show a lack of respect and tolerance towards those who belong to different faiths, cultures or communities."

And it added: "Prejudice-based bullying, while reported on, is not tackled effectively enough. Discrimination through racist or homophobic language persists."

But in his statement, Mr Gray said the difference between the latest Ofsted report and one in May last year, where it was judged to require improvement, was different due to the introduction of British values into the Ofsted framework.

“There have been no major changes of staffing, pupils or policy to account for the difference. The difference was the introduction of the widely discredited ‘British Values’ rules and the aggressive attitude of the inspection team,” he said.

“We are a Christian school. Under our funding agreement and the law, we have a duty to prioritise the teaching of the Christian faith. At the same time, we make sure our children respect people of all faiths and none.The questioning by inspectors makes clear that their idea of a balanced curriculum is for us to force pupils to celebrate non-Christian religious festivals.”

A Department for Education said the school had been “troubled for some time” and that Ofsted has been “monitoring it carefully”.

“This report shows that problems persist and there are continued concerns about leadership, the quality of learning and safeguarding,” a spokesperson said.

“Underperformance at any school is unacceptable and one of the many strengths of the free school programme is that we can identify and intervene quickly wherever we find failure. We will look at the report in detail once it is officially published by Ofsted and will respond in due course.”

Related stories: 

Durham Free School ordered to close after only 18 months - 19 January 2015

Private school that joined state sector is warned over finances - 9 January 2015

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