Ofsted abandons inspection of Luton school after homosexuality row
Parents of pupils at Muslim school Olive Tree primary say inspectors questioned children about attitudes to homosexuality
Richard Adams - 15 May 2014
Ofsted staff were forced to abandon their inspection of a Muslim primary school in Luton on Thursday after being confronted by parents angry that their children as young as nine had been questioned in private about their attitudes to homosexuality.
The inspectors, including a senior employee, cut short their review of the Olive Tree primary school, an independent Muslim faith school, after the group of parents said they would withdraw their children from the school as long as the inspectors remained.
Ghulam Shah, a parent of one of the children interviewed by the Ofsted inspectors, said his 10-year-old son was upset by the way the questioning was carried out, and that as a parent he was concerned he had not been told the inspectors would be discussing sex with his children.
"He was sat with a male adult who looked him in the eye and said, 'What do you know about gays?' What that made him do, it made him panic, and he said 'I don't want to continue this conversation,' because he felt scared, intimidated," said Shah. "It's horrible for a child to be in a room with somebody they've never met before, who's not with a teacher and not with a parent."
A spokesman for Ofsted said: "We can confirm that inspectors withdrew from the second day of an inspection in Luton. However, sufficient evidence was gathered to complete the inspection."
Ofsted inspectors were left to their own discretion regarding the nature of questions about sexuality posed to different age groups, the spokesman said.
Shah said his son told him about the conversation with the inspectors after he picked him up from school on Wednesday.
"He said, Dad, when they took us to the side room, they said 'Do you guys know what gay means?'. My son said, yes, I do know what it means, what's that got to do with our education? They said, 'Are you exposed to it in any way, good or bad, does the school teach you anything about it? My son replied, no, the school has not taught us anything about it but I have heard of the word and I'd rather not have this conversation with you at all."
Shah said the inspector told his son not to be offended, telling him: "It's just a part of the law we have to ask you."
The questioning into attitudes to homosexuality follows reports that Ofsted inspectors repeatedly asked similar questions of Muslim pupils during the investigation into Birmingham schools over the alleged Islamist plot known as Trojan Horse.
But Ofsted said that questions about homosexuality were not restricted to Muslim or predominantly Muslim schools. "As part of any school inspection, inspectors will ask pupils about the effectiveness of the school's actions to prevent and tackle discriminatory and derogatory language – this includes homophobic and racist language," a spokesman said.
Olive Tree primary is an independent primary in the Biscot area of Luton, run by a charity. Those independent schools in England that do not come under the Independent Schools Council are inspected by Ofsted, under standards set by the Department for Education. Those standards include a requirement that schools have a duty to teach pupils tolerance of different groups within society.
The inspectors questioned the group of nine and 10-year-olds on Wednesday, and then met more than 20 parents who attended a scheduled meeting on Thursday morning as part of the inspection. TAt the meeting the parents raised the appropriateness of the questioning, and after discussion between the inspectors, parents and school, the inspectors opted to withdraw, ending the inspection a day early.
Farasat Latif, who is the chair of the trust that runs the school and a parent whose children attend it, said the meeting was largely amicable.
"One of the parents said to them, and all of us agreed, this is a safeguarding issue, we are not comfortable about adults speaking to our children about issues of sexuality. Therefore either you stop the inspection now or we pull our kids out, and they're in the middle of Sats.
"When they realised we were serious about that, they left," Latif said. "This is about sexualising young children."
The inspectors also asked the children if they had seen anything on the news about terrorism that they had discussed in class.
Shah said the inspectors – when they were made aware of the parents' feelings – did apologise for the manner of questioning: "They apologised three times, we should maybe have used an alternative route, maybe asked the head master, maybe asked the teacher or the parents to be present. But [they said] we can't apologise for the law and what we've been sent out to do," he said.
This is indeed about sexualizing young children and getting them to accept and adopt indecent and un-Islamic practices. Education is just a disguise to fool the people (especially the parents).
Scathing report could shut Muslim school for promoting Salafi beliefs
Olive Tree primary disputes findings in draft report including claim library contains books 'abhorrent to British society'
Richard Adams - 21 May 2014
Ofsted inspectors have harshly criticized an independent Muslim school for promoting Salafi fundamentalist beliefs and rated the school as inadequate, in a possible prelude to it being closed or taken over by the Department for Education.
In their unpublished draft report, the inspectors said the school – the Olive Tree primary school in Luton – fails to prepare its pupils "for life in modern Britain, as opposed to life in a Muslim state", and that its library contains books that are "abhorrent to British society" in their depiction of punishments under sharia law.
"Some books in the children's library contain fundamentalist Islamic beliefs (Salafi) or are set firmly within a Saudi Arabian socio-religious context. Some of the views promoted by these books, for example about stoning women, have no place in British society," the report argues.
But the school's governors and trustees vehemently denied the findings of the inspectors, who had been forced to cut short their visit last week after being confronted by parents upset by their questioning of pupils about attitudes to homosexuality.
Farooq Murad, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, on Wednesday wrote to Ofsted's chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, asking him to clarify the watchdog's policy on teaching about homosexuality in independent faith schools, in the wake of the Olive Tree inspection.
In a copy of the letter seen by the Guardian, Murad says British Muslims were concerned by reports of the inspection, and calls on Wilshaw to show "evidence to support the assertion that such questions are not only asked of young children at Muslim schools".
Responding to the draft report, the Olive Tree leadership said the school had no books available to children that described or advocated stoning women, and called a claim that the library carried no books on religions other than Islam "an outright fabrication".
"We have a large number of books about different faiths, which the inspectors failed to notice, including The Diary of Ann Frank," said Farasat Latif, the school's chair of governors, who said the library also included works of fiction by authors such as Roald Dahl.
Latif also denied the school was Salafist – a reference to the conservative form of Islam most associated with Saudi Arabia – although he said some members of staff might describe themselves that way.
The school also disputed several of the other claims made by the inspectors, and described the draft report as a "catalogue of lies, half-truths and blatant Islamaphobia".
"The draft report from Ofsted was Michael Wilshaw's way of teaching a Muslim school a bloody good lesson for daring to stand up to them, an attitude not dissimilar to how the colonial masters dealt with the restless natives," it said in a statement.
An Ofsted spokesman said: "We have shared a draft copy of the inspection report in confidence with the school for factual accuracy checking, as is our standard practice. The final report will be published shortly.
"Any concerns that a school has about an inspection should initially be raised during the inspection visit. If concerns have not been resolved, individuals or schools can raise a formal complaint with Ofsted in line with our published complaints policy."
The inspectors also criticized the mixed school – which had about 60 pupils – for inadequate attention to national guidelines on safeguarding and child protection, although it said pupils were well supervised and that staff appointments and record checks were followed correctly.
The snap inspection was ordered by the Department for Education after reports that the headteacher had argued during a BBC radio discussion that homosexuality was punishable by death in an "ideal" Islamic state. Several other independent Muslim schools have also had recent snap inspections ordered by the department.
Under recent updates to the regulations governing independent schools the education secretary can close or replace the leadership of those rated as inadequate.
The draft report also criticized the Olive Tree school's teaching, although it noted that pupils achieved good results in national standardized tests and were well behaved. It also praised the teaching of Arabic as "skilful".
The report makes no reference to homosexuality, although the inspectors wrote: "Pupils' contact with people from different cultures, faiths and traditions is too limited to promote tolerance and respect for the views, lifestyles and customs of other people."
Latif said: "The inspectors scrutinized the pupils' books and found no evidence of fundamentalist beliefs being taught. So their judgment is on the religion and not what is being taught."
The school correctly points out that this is nothing but an Islamophobic attack for stopping the forced homosexual interviews with these Muslim children. These colonialists want to teach this school and its community a lesson so no other school does the same thing with the next forced homosexual interviews.