Ofsted accused of flouting race remit

12th October 2007 at 01:00
Inspectorate may face legal action over 'alarming' ratings for schools with no equality policies

OFSTED IS facing legal action over an alleged failure to take seriously its duties promoting racial equality.

The Commission for Racial Equality wrote to the inspectorate after reporting it has the poorest record of any public regulatory body on race. It said Ofsted should ensure its inspectors investigate whether schools have race equality policies. But it claims the inspectorate is not doing so because it does not accept it has responsibilities in this area.

A law introduced in 2001 requires all schools to have a race equality policy, to minimise racial differences in pupils' results, promote good race relations with the community and cut racial bullying.

The commission was replaced this month by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which retains many of its responsibilities as well as Trevor Phillips at its helm.

In its final report last month, the CRE called on its successor to hold Ofsted to account on an alleged reluctance to get inspectors to check school race relations policies.

Elsewhere, the report said some inspectors were making only "token" comments on race. Nick Johnson, a former director of policy at the CRE, said race relations seemed not to be a major factor in Ofsted's school judgments.

He said: "We found quite alarming evidence of schools without race equality policies that got excellent ratings from Ofsted. Either they did not probe for it or decided that, although the school did not have a policy, it was not felt to be needed in terms of performance. If a school is not complying with the law, you might feel the inspection would reflect that."

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "Ofsted is absolutely determined to be fully compliant with its equalities duties and become an exemplar of good practice. New Ofsted was formed in April 2007 and made equality one of its top priorities. We have already made good progress and are acting on the points made by the CRE."

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