A Christian school in the United Kingdom has been shut down and is receiving tough ridicule because a 12-year-old boy gave the wrong answer when asked what a Muslim was by visiting inspectors.
The Durham Free School has been branded an educational failure by Ofsted officials who reported that some children displayed “discriminatory views” towards people of other faiths, after the pupil apparently included a reference to terrorism when asked what a Muslim was.
The Daily Mail reports that teachers have called Ofsted’s decision grossly unfair and is based on a throwaway and ignorant comment made by a single pupil. Teachers at the school, which has 94 pupils aged 11 to 13, believe that the Christian ethos at the school has made it an easy target for officials keen to prove they are promoting the UK Government’s diversity agenda.
The inspecting team, led by Joan Hewitt, concluded, “Leaders are failing to prepare students for life in modern Britain. Some students hold discriminatory views of other people who have different faiths, values or beliefs from themselves.”
However, teachers at Durham Free School tell a different story. They’ve explained that the inspectors based their view on speaking to the pupil during a group discussion about Muslims, and although his answer included a reference to terrorism, it was in the words of acting headmaster Julian Eisner “disappointingly ignorant” but not “evidence of a discriminatory attitude.”
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said, “Durham Free School is failing to ensure children are looked after, failing to provide an environment in which children are able to learn and failing to provide the quality of education that we expect.”
The news of Durham Free School’s closure comes just months after another Christian school in the area has been put into special measures by Ofsted inspectors. Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland came under fire after inspectors concluded its pupils were intolerant after asking them a series of questions.
Yet the nature of the questions, the manner in which they were asked, and the age range of the pupils some of these questions were being directed to, has upset both staff, pupils and teachers at Grindon Hall.
In a letter of complaint to Ofsted, Principal Chris Gray voices his concerns over what he considers inappropriate questioning of the pupils.
“Several parents complained to me about what they saw as intrusive and deeply personal questioning of their children in the group sessions. It has been reported back to me that children aged 6- 9 were asked whether they knew anything about Diwali and whether they were familiar with the Torah.
“Children aged 10 and 11 were asked is there anyone in your school that’s a tom boy? Do they get called names? Is there anyone in the school who has two mums or dads? The inspectors seemed unaware that girls could interpret a question about ‘tom boys’ as a comment on their own appearance. It was suggested that a response from one child to the effect of querying how it is possible to have two mums was viewed as indicating a lack of awareness of lesbian relationships. Actually, I understand the child concerned was merely thinking in biological terms.
“In addition, I have also heard reports of primary school children being asked if they knew of any boys or girls who thought they were in the ‘wrong body’. Another parent has complained to me in writing that her ten year old daughter was asked if she knew what lesbians did. Pupils were embarrassed and surprised to be asked questions about sexuality.
“Parents expressed their upset and shock at the nature of the questions. One mother describes her daughter as having been ‘disturbed’, ‘upset’ and ‘stressed out.’ It is clear that many of the questions asked are viewed by parents as wholly inappropriate, particularly given the age of the children involved. Pupils have recounted many positive comments that they had made, but hardly any were fed back to me by the inspectors. Instead, anything even slightly negative was fed back to us in some detail.”
Prebendary Rod Thomas, of the Reform Council and a member of the General Synod, agreed that the plight of the two schools was disturbing.
“When the future of entire schools can be prejudiced on the basis of what appear to be a few conversations with individual pupils, it raises very serious concerns.”