Ofsted chief defends homophobia questions during Christian school inspection

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector has defended the regulator’s questioning while investigating a Christian free school in Durham.

Durham Free School was placed in special measures this month, within a week of the nearby Grindon Hall Christian School.

The two institutions – which were early adopters of former Education Secretary Michael Gove’s free schools policy – both criticized the questioning of inspectors.

Chris Gray, the head at Grindon Hall Christian School, complained earlier this month that Ofsted was being “hostile” by trying to gauge the level of students’ awareness of LGBT issues.

Sir Michael Wilshaw defended the questioning today, telling the Education Select Committee that Durham Free School pupils had displayed homophobic behaviour.

Mr Wilshaw said: “If you approach a child and ask about homophobic bullying in school they’re unlikely to understand what that means.

“But if you ask if children are calling each other gay or lesbo, then they will understand what inspectors are asking them.

“We found no evidence to suggest that inspectors used inappropriate language or terminology to these children.

“It has to be understood that if there are allegations of homophobic bullying at a school then we have to ask questions.

“There was homophobic bullying going on at Durham Free School.”

However, acting head Julian Eisner laid into the body for the line of questioning.

He told the Chronicle: “The questions and the context in which the questions were asked left some children distressed and upset.

“We believe Ofsted needs to review its approach to questioning children.

“It is vital that questions are age-appropriate and carefully deigned to provide accurate information about children’s attitudes and views.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We judged this school to be inadequate across all criteria and the government has withdrawn its funding.

“Inspectors are trained to handle sensitive issues with care and in an age appropriate fashion.

“Ofsted takes all concerns about its work seriously, and will consider any issues raised about individual cases through our complaints procedure.”