Parents and pupils to march on London as hundreds defend Sunderland free school

Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland.
Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland.
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A DELEGATION of 200 parents and children from Grindon Hall Christian School will march on London as they fight back at criticism from education watchdog Ofsted.

The Action for Grindon Hall campaigners hope to meet education minister Nicky Morgan and hand in their petition to Downing Street as they head to the capital in a convoy of coaches on Wednesday.

Grindon Hall

Grindon Hall

It comes after Ofsted put the Sunderland free school into special measures because of concerns raised by inspectors over the quality of leadership, the behaviour of pupils and their safety, the quality of teaching and achievement levels of children.

The school – which today came top in the city’s A-level results and saw almost seven in 10 pupils achieve five or more A*-C GCSE passes in subjects including English and maths – was also told it needs to improve its early years and sixth form provisions.

Ofsted’s report 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”.

Headteacher Chris Gray has disputed the claims and has launched a complaint against Ofsted over the report and the way pupils were questionned during November’s visit by inspectors, while parents have began to draft up a counter-report to address the accusations.

With Mr Gray’s permission, the parents and children will set off at dawn to make it to London in time for Prime Minister’s Questions, then hope to go on to No 10 and present their document to Mrs Morgan.

An online petition is to be launched in coming days and the Grindon Hall Parents’ Action Facebook account has gained more than 1,900 followers, while the website has also been set up.

Around 80 teachers who send their own children to the school are among the supporters, with a meeting to be held tonight to discuss further action.

The campaign is being chaired by Dr Tim Dunnett, who is dad to pupils Hannah, 12, Caleb, 10, Elijah, eight, and Matthew, six.

He said: “We want to put as much pressure as possible on the Government to look at the specifics of this case.

“It’s a big injustice and there are big questions over what they are going to do about it in relation to Ofsted and we want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“This report has been an utter disgrace.”

The school’s inspection was discussed in the House of Commons this week.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson asked “on behalf of the hundreds of parents who have written to me” whether Ofsted has questions to answer about the inspection to ensure people can have confidence in the education watchdog.

She added parents who have been in touch with her had expressed concerns.

Her comments came during a debate on Durham Free School, after a damning Ofsted report found leadership, teaching, pupil behaviour and achievement were “inadequate” and said the school should be put in special measures. Mrs Morgan told the Commons last week that her department was ending its funding agreement for the school, which has a Christian ethos.

North West Durham MP Pat Glass said the school had become a haven for “every crap teacher in the North East”.