Two North East Free Schools 'Unsatisfactory'

20 January 2015, 17:47 | Updated: 21 January 2015, 07:48

A free school in Sunderland's been placed under 'special measures', 24 hours after another was forced to close in Durham.

Grindon Hall free school in Sunderland, has been deemed 'unsatisfactory' after an Ofsted inspection identified a number of failings, including pupils being unable to name a religion other than Christianity.

The news comes just one day after the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced she would be terminating funding for Durham Free School following an Ofstead inspection that concluded it was failing in all areas.

Ofsted have found that the curriculum at Grindon Hall does not adequately prepare pupils for life in 'modern Britain' and that incidents of homophobic and racist bullying at the Christian school were not dealt with properly by staff.

The school's inspection report claims:
"Pupils are unaware of the diversity that exists within modern British society.

They have not been taught about the range of beliefs and opinions that people may hold that differ to their own."

But Chris Gray, head of the Christian school, has hit back at Oftsed inspectors, claiming that during their visit in November, children at his school were questioned in a 'hostile' and 'inappropriate' manner which raised 'serious safeguarding issues.'

Mr Gray said that, following the inspection, the school was swamped by complaints from parents whose children were asked a range of inappropriate questions.

He said:
"In the days after the inspection, several parents complained to me about what they saw as intrusive and deeply personal questioning of their children in some group sessions.

I heard reports of primary school children being asked if they knew of any boys or girls who thought they were in the wrong body and others if they knew what gay and lesbians did."

The principal added that children as young as six were being asked if they knew anything about Diwali or if they were familiar with Torah and others were asked if they knew anyone with two mums or two dads.

Mr Gray added:
"We are a Christian school and under our funding agreement and the law, we have a duty to prioritise the teaching of the Christian faith.

At the same time, we make sure our children respect people of all faiths."

Grindon Hall Christian School opened in 1988 and became a 'free school' in 2014.

The school will be submitting a formal complaint under the usual procedures now that the report has been issued.