PARENTS turned out in droves for a meeting about the future of Sunderland’s trouble-hit free school.
Angered by the decision of Ofsted to place Grindon Hall Christian School in special measures, parents have vowed to take their complaints to Downing Street.
More than 350 parents and carers gathered in the Nookside school’s hall last night to pledge their support and voice their outrage at the treatment of the school.
Families have said pupils were left in tears after hearing of the criticism levelled at it by education watchdog following a visit in November, which branded the school’s leadership and management and behaviour and safety of pupils as inadequate.
In their damning report they also said the school’s curriculum “does not adequately prepare pupils for life in modern Britain” and that “pupils show a lack of respect and tolerance towards those who belong to different faiths, cultures or communities”.
But, there was standing room only at the meeting last night and principal, Chris Gray, who had previously made an official complaint to Ofsted about the ‘hostile’ and ‘inappropriate’ way children were questioned, said there was a huge amount of support.
At the meeting he thanked everyone for their support.
He said: “These are challenging times, and it is wonderful to know that we as a school have such great support. We’ve received messages of support from all over the world, which is great, but the support from you the parents has been the most valuable and hugely appreciated.”
In March last year the school was inspected and rated as good in all but one category, giving it an overall rating of requiring improvement. In September a follow-up visit said the school was making good progress.
However, the report following the visit in November, which has been officially published today by Ofsted, has placed the school in special measures.
Mr Gray said: “We are unclear as to how an encouraging letter in September can turn into special measures within 8 weeks.
“I think I can say with some confidence that parents here tonight – you’ve told me - do not recognise Grindon Hall from the report that has been produced.
“I have, as you know, complained to Ofsted about the way the inspection was conducted. That has clearly touched a nerve across the country and gone viral.
“We maintain that Ofsted has over-stepped the mark, has asked inappropriate questions of our children and has exceeded its remit. In doing so, it has misrepresented our parents, our pupils and our school.
“One of the recurring themes in the messages of support we have received is that it’s about time someone stood up to Ofsted. It’s a pity that that’s had to be little Grindon Hall, an
isolated free school on the North East coast. But we have done so – and the support we’ve gleaned has been overwhelming.”
Earlier this week it was reported that Durham Free School will close after having its funding terminated, but Mr Gray reassured parents Grindon Hall is in a very different situation.
He added: “For what it’s worth I will keep fighting this. It’s an injustice, and we need to combat it as well as we can with our school’s core values and our Christian commitment at the heart of all we do – remember those values: respect, integrity, courtesy and honesty.”