A Tory MP has launched a scathing attack on Ofsted, accusing a “rogue” inspection “hit squad” of engineering a downgrade of the school his child attends.
Philip Hollobone claimed the team sent to inspect Bishop Stopford School in his Kettering constituency in June 2022 had a “prearranged agenda”.
After raising his concerns in a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, the MP was offered a meeting with the watchdog’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman.
In the inspection report, published last month, the school was rated as ‘requires improvement’, an outcome its headteacher described as “extremely disappointing”.
The Church of England school, rated ‘outstanding’ in its last inspection in 2008, converted to a single-academy trust in 2011 and was not reinspected until the government removed the exemption for top-rated schools last year.
Hollobone said his claims were based on “evidence” from the school’s head, deputy head and pupils.
“Ofsted has sent in an educational inspection hit squad with a pre-arranged agenda to downgrade this faith-based school, whatever it found on its visit,” he said.
The MP claimed inspectors had “disparaged the school’s Christian ethos” in interviews with pupils.
He said a boy was asked if he thought ‘this is a white, middle-class school’, while a girl was asked if she felt uncomfortable walking upstairs when wearing a skirt.
According to Hollobone, who admitted one of his children attended Bishop Stopford, Ofsted refuted the claim, saying there was “no record in the evidence of the exact line of questioning”.
But he added: “I raise the matter not because of my child, but because I think a genuine injustice has been done with this inspection.”
School rated ‘requires improvement’ in several areas
Bishop Stopford received judgments of ‘good’ for its quality of education and sixth-form provision, but was judged ‘requires improvement’ in behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management.
Ofsted said the school did not record and share safeguarding information “effectively”, and pupils did “not always feel confident” reporting bullying and inappropriate language.
But Hollobone accused the inspectorate of “pursuing an agenda”.
“Unable to criticise the school’s educational achievements, inspectors have pursued an agenda against a top-performing school with a Christian ethos by engineering criticisms of the behaviour and attitudes, personal development, and leadership and management criteria,” he said.
He also claimed Ofsted had “leaked” its rating as two schools had heard of the downgrade before the report was published.
Bishop Stopford’s complaints to Ofsted were not upheld. The inspectorate would not be able to look into the claims further without “further evidence”, Hollobone said.
But responding in parliament, Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said given the “specific concerns” he would request the MP “get the opportunity to discuss them directly with His Majesty’s chief inspector”.
Ofsted said an invitation had been extended, but a spokesperson added: “The concerns raised about this inspection have been investigated thoroughly.”
Bishop Stopford said it was “grateful” to the MP for “seeking to engender debate which has the potential to significantly improve the system”.
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