Headteacher complains to Ofsted after inspectors asked pupils ‘embarrassing’ questions on sex and religion

Grindon Hall
Grindon Hall
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THE headteacher of a Wearside school has lodged an official complaint with Ofsted over how the school watchdog questioned its pupils on a classroom visit.

Chris Gray, principal at Grindon Hall Christian School, said the questioning of young children crossed the line - especially matters of “sexuality”.

Mr Gray has written to Ofsted chiefs saying he has been swamped by complaints from parents whose children were asked a range of, what they saw as inappropriate, questions when the watchdog body’s inspectors made an unannounced visit with the main aim of investigating the school’s teaching of British values.

The headteacher said: “In the days after the inspection, several parents complained to me about what they saw as intrusive and deeply personal questioning of their children in some group sessions.

“I heard reports of primary school children being asked if they knew of any boys or girls who thought they were in the wrong body and others if they knew what gay and lesbians did.”

The principal added that children as young as six were being asked if they knew anything about Diwali or if they were familiar with Torah and others were asked if they knew anyone with two mums or two dads.

Mr Gray said: “Pupils were embarrassed and surprised to be asked questions about sexuality.

“The offer of a one-to-one meeting with an inspector, who was a complete stranger to them, in order to discuss personal matters of sexuality was also viewed with alarm by some parents.”

The principal at the school, which became a free school in September 2012, said he owed it to the parents and pupils to make the official complaint on their behalf.

He said: “It is clear that many of the questions asked are viewed by parents as wholly inappropriate, particularly given the age of the children involved.”

It comes after the Echo reported yesterday how the school had been told to improve its financial management after turning to the Government for help balancing the books.

School bosses were served with a notice to improve after requesting support from the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

Mr Gray said when Ofsted inspectors arrived in November he was told the visit had been personally authorised by the Secretary of State because of Grindon Hall’s links with another school, but they didn’t say which school or what these links were.

He said: “The tenor of the inspection was negative and hostile at every stage, as if the data collected had to fit a pre-determined outcome.

“Two students said they felt the inspectors were attacking Christianity. Indeed, many of the questions seem to betray an underlying disrespect for the Christian faith.”

Although Grindon Hall is a school with a Christian ethos, it is not selective and Mr Gray says he has children from a number of different religious and ethnic background.

He said children and parents are very happy and the school is hugely oversubscribed.

One sixth form pupil said of the inspection: “Regarding the Ofsted inspector who questioned us, I felt she was directing the conversation towards racism, homophobia and extremist views.

“When we answered that these were obviously not tolerated in our school, she rephrased the questions and went on to ask whether we felt at a disadvantage because of only being taught about Christianity.

“The direct tone of her questioning made it feel slightly interrogative, and as though she was manipulating the conversation.”

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We are committed to making sure all pupils in England receive a broad and balanced education.

“One part of how we assess this is through talking to pupils to consider the extent to which they are being prepared for the next stages in their lives.

“Ofsted is not looking for answers to questions which are contrary to their faith.

“Nor do we require evidence that schools ‘promote’ other faiths.

“Instead, inspectors must ensure that pupils are able to express views which are neither intolerant nor discriminatory towards others.

“Ofsted takes all concerns about its work seriously.

“We will be considering the issues raised by the school as part of our normal quality assurance arrangements.”