‘Unsafe’ school riddled with homophobic bullying slammed as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted

School friend bullying a sad boy in school corridor at school

Ofsted has issued a scathing report about a secondary school in North Yorkshire, England, riddled with homophobic bullying.

The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) slapped Barlby High School with its lowest rating in its four-point scale: “Inadequate.”

This means that the school of nearly 600 students is failing to provide an acceptable quality of education and care for children.

Inspectors described an alarming culture where homophobic bullying is all too common – but Barlby High School leaders have vowed to change this.

For failing to reach acceptable standards, Ofted placed the school in special measures, meaning that it will face additional pressure from Selby councillors to improve and the leadership must be refreshed.

“Many pupils at this school feel unsafe,” the Ofted report published Thursday (27 January) reads.

“Some pupils said that homophobic language is used regularly around school. Others told inspectors that they had been victims of homophobic abuse.”

Homophobic language from the playground to the classrooms was “not dealt with effectively by leaders”, students told inspectors.

Students ‘do not understand’ why homophobic slurs are ‘inappropriate’, says Ofsted

Barlby students expressed a sense of defeat to Ofsted. Even though some pupils have been appointed as anti-bullying ambassadors, many do not flag incidents to teachers as “they do not think it will help” and “the problem would get worse”.

Half of LGBT+ pupils say they hear homophobic slurs “frequently” or “often” at school, according to Stonewall. The charity added that 42 per cent of queer students say they have been bullied in the past year – double that of their straight counterparts.

The school site has even become a patchwork of safe areas and sections that younger students feel too scared to go, inspectors observed, “especially when teachers are not present”.

Pupils added that the school’s leadership “do not have a clear understanding” of just how riddled with homophobic bullying the school is.

As they laid out a nine-point plan to improve the school, inspectors pointed to a lack of education around LGBT+ lives as one reason why such slurs are all too common.

The body previously said that schools that do not teach about LGBT+ families will be marked down.

“Many pupils do not understand the impact of the language they use or why it is inappropriate,” the report stated.

PSHE lessons must teach about “diversity, respect, tolerance and the appropriate use of language” while better bullying policies must be put in place to rebuild student confidence.

With crucial funding for education providers tied to the dedication watchdog’s ratings, an “inadequate” ranking means the school risks losing cash from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Inspectors visited the school in November last year.

Hope Sentamu Learning Trust, which runs Barlby High among other academies, said in a letter to parents and guardians that it is “disappointed” with Ofsted’s report.

CEO Helen Winn said that the trust has drawn up an “urgent action plan” to change the school, with new leadership appointed at Christmas.

A spokesperson for Barlby High told the York Press: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our students are paramount and we are working exceptionally hard to resolve the very important issues that Ofsted has highlighted.

“Central to this is the action plan that we have drawn up and which we are already enacting. This includes the introduction before Christmas of a new executive leadership model for Barlby High School, which means that the school now has additional leadership capacity, expertise and support.

“The trust’s very experienced trust inclusion lead is also now working alongside the school inclusion team, and we are in the process of recruiting additional behaviour managers and a new full-time support services manager.

“We are already seeing the benefits of these new arrangements and are confident that they will contribute strongly to rapid and sustained improvement.”

For activists, a lack of surprise. Queer pupils are twice as likely to have been bullied than their straight counterparts, Just Like Us found.

“It is really concerning to see that LGBT+ pupils feel so unsafe but sadly this is not an anomaly,” Dominic Arnall, the LGBT+ young people charity’s chief executive, told PinkNews.

“In our report has found that only 58 per cent of LGBT+ pupils have felt safe at school on a daily basis in the past 12 months, compared to 73 per cent of non-LGBT+ pupils.

“This is a widespread problem that won’t disappear simply by the passing of time – schools need to introduce positive messaging about LGBT+ people and in fact, our independent research found that when they do, there is a link to pupils having better mental health, whether they’re LGBT+ or not.”

“We would love to work with Barbly High School, and any other teachers reading this,” Arnall added, “to improve the experiences of LGBT+ pupils and ensure it’s an environment where everyone can thrive regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation or whether they have LGBT+ families.”

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