Pupils in tears after Sunderland free school put into special measures

Lena Wilkinson and husband Andrew with children Ariella, Hannah, Samuel and Joel
Lena Wilkinson and husband Andrew with children Ariella, Hannah, Samuel and Joel
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PARENTS angered by a decision to place a Sunderland free school into special measures have vowed to take their complaint to Downing Street.

Families have said pupils at Grindon Hall Christian School, in Nookside, were left in tears after hearing of the criticism levelled at it by education watchdog Ofsted.

Following a visit to the school in November, inspectors 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”.

Principal Chris Gray, who had already complained to Ofsted over how inspectors had questioned pupils, said the report “defies all common sense and logic”. Read more: Head teacher hits back.

A meeting of parents is planned tonight to call for a review of the decision, with a petition to be gathered.

‘School saved my children from racism and brought out their potential’

Dr Lena Wilkinson, who is Indian, and husband Andrew decided to enrol Ariella, 10, Joel, eight, Samuel, seven, and Hannah, five, after experiencing racism at another school.

She said: “My children were struggling when they started the school four years ago. My children have now been independently assessed and are a year ahead in reading and maths due to the school’s teaching and care.

“If it wasn’t for the school I wouldn’t have found out that my children are musically gifted and my son is gifted in sport. The school tapped into this potential. The school has a Christian ethos of tolerance, liberty and promoting British values and excellent education and have taught my children to respect all faiths. The school is an mix of all nationalities and has no faith-based selection.

“There is no mention of the good things in the school. The report has majored on the minor.

“Grindon Hall is unparalleled in quality and is shaping lives and future well-rounded tolerant individuals who value society without prejudice.This has caused devastation to children and parents who will fight against this untrue report. We as parents are gathering a petition about the mistreatment and hostility of Ofsted towards our children and school. We are even prepared to petition Downing Street as we are worried about our school’s closure.

“Grindon Hall free school was a great incentive by the government for less privileged children to receive private education and a future.

“Now sadly our school may be at threat of closure which would mean devastation and broken children, with futures snatched away.”

•A DfE spokesperson said: “This school has been troubled for some time and Ofsted have been monitoring it carefully. This report shows that problems persist and there are continued concerns about leadership, the quality of learning and safeguarding.

“Underperformance at any school is unacceptable and one of the many strengths of the free school programme is that we can identify and intervene quickly wherever we find failure.

“We will look at the report in detail once it is officially published by Ofsted and will respond in due course.”

Read more: MP says it was ‘necessary step’ by Ofsted to put school in special measures