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Education

School used £100,000 of public money to suppress Ofsted report that uncovered ‘endemic of homophobia’

Emma Powys Maurice June 17, 2020
Lady Lumley's pupils confirm homophobia 'endemic' denied by the school

Councillor Greg White condemned Lady Lumley's school for attempting to quash the Ofsted report (Facebook)

Lady Lumley’s School in Yorkshire used more than £100,000 of public funds to suppress an Ofsted report that revealed unchallenged “homophobic and racist language” from pupils.

A 2019 Ofsted inspection at Lady Lumley’s in Pickering, North Yorkshire, rated the school as “inadequate” in light of the “endemic” language used by students.

It said that the children’s comments were “widespread” and “considered normal”, and often went unreported because students did not expect staff or leaders to act.

An inadequate rating means the school will convert into an academy school and be taken over by an academy chain. In response, the school launched a lengthy legal challenge which it took all the way to the Appeal Court in London.

The attempt to quash Ofsted’s report was heavily criticised by North Yorkshire county councillor Greg White, who said there was no justification for spending £100,000 on the case.

“I was… very disappointed to learn that the school had tried to suppress the Ofsted report by taking very expensive legal action,” he said.

“While I can understand the school’s governing body and head teacher wanting to question the inspectors’ findings, in what was a very harsh report, I could not see any justification for spending more than £100,000 of public money to challenge Ofsted in the High Court. That money was provided to fund children’s education.”

Lady Lumley's School
Lady Lumley’s School in Pickering, Yorkshire (Google Maps)

He has called on North Yorkshire County Council’s senior officers to investigate how the expenditure was authorised, and to use their powers to prohibit any further spending on fighting the report’s publication.

The county council has now acted on White’s suggestion to set up an interim executive board to replace the governing body of the school.

Lady Lumley’s School claims it had ‘no choice’ but to challenge report.

The school’s leaders have fiercely defended their actions, claiming they had “no choice but to resort to the legal system” as there is no way to appeal against an Ofsted judgment.

“This has naturally cost a great deal of money, but money that was already in the school budget and the school still remains in a sound financial position,” they added.

A letter to parents from the school’s headteacher and governors warned that the Ofsted report will condemn students “to be classed as racist and homophobic and it condemns the staff to be classed as people who accept such behaviour.

“It also reflects on the whole community. This is the one of the main reasons we felt we had to challenge this report so strongly.”

The letter continued: “When you read the report, did it sound like the school your son or daughter goes to? Whilst there are a number of positive aspects to the report, we are bitterly disappointed with the overall outcome.”

Ofsted backed by parents and former teachers at school.

Within hours of the report being published, scores of parents, former teachers and Pickering residents said they were not surprised by Ofsted’s findings and branded the legal actions as a “vanity project” by the school’s leaders.

They support Ofsted inspectors’ description of “a school of contrasts” in which classrooms were usually calm and behaviour in lessons is usually good, but a large minority of pupils do not feel protected from bullying.

“Leaders think that they take bullying seriously and believe that they act on it effectively. However, a large minority of pupils, and parents, do not share this view,” the report said.

Some students expressed views that the school site was insecure and said that they also felt threatened on school transport.

Judith Kirk, North Yorkshire’s assistant director for education and skills, said the council has “zero tolerance of bullying or prejudiced behaviour of any kind” and is now working closely with the school as it moves into academisation.

More: Homophobia, homophobia in schools, Lady Lumley's School, Ofsted, Picering, Yorkshire

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