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20.11.14

Top CofE school failed to protect pupils from Islamic extremism – Ofsted

A Church of England (CofE) school in Tower Hamlets previously graded as outstanding is to be placed in special measures by Ofsted for failing to protect pupils from Islamic extremism.

Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Redcoat school, in Stepney, east London, is believed to have failed for not safeguarding and monitoring pupils.

The report comes just two weeks after Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, dismissed criticism of faith schools in the wake of the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham, saying: “No church schools or faith-based schools were caught up in Trojan Horse. We are the solution, not the problem.”

Inspectors found the CofE school, where four fifths of pupils are Muslim, had failed to monitor the activities of an Islamic society and a YouTube channel set up by sixth-formers at the school. The group are said to have posted Islamist extremist material via a Facebook page claiming to be associated with the school.

The school had also allowed the segregation of boys and girls in the playground, however this policy had been in place for several years, including when the school was rated as outstanding.

Concerns over safeguarding at a school mean that it will automatically fail the leadership and management category of an inspection, no matter how good the teaching, academic results or behaviour.

The previous Ofsted report commended how students from “diverse cultures work so well together, having developed excellent codes of behaviour and respect for one another in and out of lessons”.

“This is reflected in the very low level of racial incidents and exclusions for a school of this size,”said inspectors.

Robert McCulloch-Graham, Tower Hamlets’ director of education, told The Independent: “What we can say is that where any issues in our maintained schools do occur, we have a strong track record of intervening swiftly and successfully to address them.

“We will work with the leadership of this school to address any issues identified by Ofsted.”

Of the Facebook page he said: “I haven’t got all of the details but we understand it was put up by some sixth formers, we believe, external to the school, but it did advertise events at the school. The school was alerted to it some time ago and the criticism is that the school should have done more to prevent the site carrying on, and should have done some follow-up actions to try and mitigate some of the influences the site may have brought to bear on the students.

“It is a bit for shock for us but we can’t get away from the fact that there weren’t good actions taken following the discovery of the website and we should have placed more emphasis on what should have been done.”

Haydn Evans, the school’s headteacher, was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list and this week received an honorary degree from the University of East London for transforming the school from one of the lowest achieving in the country to outstanding.

Head teachers and the local authority are said to believe Ofsted has overreacted and that the school has made a mistake in one area, rather than inculcating a radical agenda.

The no-notice inspection was part of a series carried out by Ofsted at Tower Hamlets schools, at the request of the education secretary.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of schools, is due to publish the school reports in an advice note to Nicky Morgan on Friday, with the Department for Education due to publish its response the same day.

(Image: Haydn Evans c. Johnny Green/PA Archive)

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