Ofsted condemn north London school for failing to take anti-gay bullying ‘seriously’

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The board of governors at a north London school have stepped down following damning criticism by Ofsted that staff failed to deal sufficiently with homophobic and racist bullying.

In a report published last month, Ofsted, the official body for inspecting schools in England, criticised Copenhagen Primary School in Islington, and said staff had failed to take bullying “seriously” on multiple occasions.

“Pupils told inspectors that bullying had not been taken seriously by some adults. As a consequence, they say that children either stop asking for help or they fight to solve matters themselves,” Ofsted said.

“An analysis of the school’s behaviour and incident log for 2012-2013, which includes incidents of racist and homophobic bulling, supports these serious concerns.

“During the first two weeks of term, twelve incidents of inappropriate behaviour were recorded. Some disruptive episodes were repeated by the same pupils. There is no evidence of effective monitoring or meaningful action by senior leaders to eradicate poor behaviour.”

The board at Copenhagen Primary School, which included Islington’s Town Hall crime chief, councillor Paul Convery, has now been replaced by interim members, following the report.

Aside from the bullying incidents, which Ofsted said was not handled well, the report reprimanded the school for weak teaching, high levels of unauthorised absence, low attainment and inadequate progress.

It also criticised the governing body for not challenging the school on these issues for a number of years and not encouraging rapid improvement after failures.

In an interview with the Islington Gazette, Cllr Paul Convery said: “The report was bad. As a parent at the school I was gobsmacked to hear about the racist and homophobic bullying – the governors weren’t told about that.

“The kids were being given too much leeway – there was a kind of atmosphere that they should be allowed to be themselves, so things weren’t strict enough and this was the result. This term we have a new head, new teachers and new leadership – it’s like a fresh school.”

Cllr Julie Horton, Islington’s opposition Lib Dem spokesman for children said: “This report is one of the most distressing I have ever read and the children there have clearly been let down. It is deeply worrying that the school has been rated inadequate at every level.”

Following the criticism, Copenhagen Primary School has been placed in a special measures category by Ofsted and will need to publish regular reports until this situation has improved.

Harsha Patel, the new headteacher for the school has pledged to improve standards.

Cllr Joe Caluori, Islington Council’s executive member for Children and Families, said: “Since starting at the school, Ms Patel has taken swift action to make a number of changes that are already resulting in visible improvements.

“Ofsted noted in their ­report that pupils, staff and governors have commented positively on the start made by the new head.

“Our schools improvement team has an excellent track record and is already working closely with staff at Copenhagen to ensure that it gets back on the right track as quickly as possible.

He added: “Islington is ranked in the top ten local authorities in the country for the proportion of our schools judged as good or outstanding by Ofsted. We want to make sure this applies to all of our primary schools and there are long-term plans in place to ensure that the progress already made at Copenhagen continues.”

Research published last month by Stonewall showed 99% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people hear homophobic language when at school.