Inspectors engender row over sexism

12th September 1997 at 01:00
The Office for Standards in Education has been accused of many things by teachers, but being a hotbed of trendy political correctness is a new one.

Schools are failed by OFSTED all the time, and generally generate little attention outside the locality. Not so in the case of Brompton and Sawdon primary, a tiny 27-pupil village school near Scarborough, where inspectors took issue with the teachers' allegedly sexist attitudes and with a white-Anglo-centric bias in the teaching.

The report says children are "only prepared to work in single-sex groups and this is not challenged". The "social development of the pupils is not routinely planned", and the school "reinforces gender divisions" and encourages "unnecessary competition". Pupils, say the inspectors, are not encouraged "to have an appreciation of the multicultural nature of Britain or to study art or music from non-European cultures".

The school has lodged a complaint with OFSTED. The head, Neil Davis, who runs the school almost single handed with part-time help, said: "While I accept that the inspectors did find some problems with the key stage 1 teaching, they seem to have been very heavy-handed with a little village school. In a 30-pupil school, if one teacher is having a bad day, 50 per cent of the lessons will be judged unsatisfactory, while in a school of 30 teachers, 10 of them would have to be underperforming for the school to get the same judgment. Perhaps there should be a different way of inspecting village schools."

What is odd about the report is that most of the judgments are positive. Standards are in line with national averages and expectations at key stage 1 in all subjects.

The main complaint seems to be inconsistency - the head's vision, standards, pupils' behaviour and work habits are all praised, but the school is criticised for an absence of formal policies for monitoring pupils' progress and welfare, resources and spending.

But Mr Davis argues that parents are supportive and formal written policies are not necessarily appropriate for a 27-pupil village school.

A spokesman for OFSTED said that HMI had corroborated the inspection findings: "There are different types of failing school - here standards are acceptable but pupils could be acheiving a lot more given their backgrounds. Also there are issues of social development - breaktimes, for example, are completely taken up with organised games."

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