A Birmingham school which has been placed in special measures by Ofsted has pledged to challenge the education watchdog’s decision through legal channels.
Golden Hillock School has been at the centre of the alleged “Trojan Horse takeover plot by Islamists” has been branded inadequate by Ofsted inspectors for doing “too little to keep students safe from the risks associated with extremist views.”
The secondary school in Sparkbrook is one of three managed by the Park View Educational Trust, which took over the school in October last year with the approval of the Department for Education.
The trust was placed at the centre of the controversy by the “Trojan horse” letter, which surfaced in March this year and sparked investigations ordered by the education secretary, Michael Gove.
According to a leaked copy of the Ofsted inspection report seen by the Guardian – due to be published next week – Golden Hillock has been rated as inadequate on all categories and placed in special measures, pending its likely change of management by the DfE.
“The academy’s work to keep students safe is inadequate. Key safeguarding procedures are not followed. Too little is done to keep students safe from the risks associated with extremist views,” the report says.
The inspectors said staff were “polarised about the leadership of the school. Some female members of staff complained to Her Majesty’s inspectors that at times they are spoken to in a manner which they find intimidating.”
Park View Trust statement
But the trust has offered a detailed rebuttal to the report, saying it did not accept the findings of the Ofsted inspectors.
Here is an abridged version of the school’s statement:
“On behalf of the staff, students and parents who have worked so hard to improve their school, we are extremely disappointed to confirm that Ofsted has decided to place Golden Hillock in Special Measures.
While we support the role of Ofsted in holding schools to account in a fair and transparent way, we wholeheartedly dispute the validity of these gradings. Golden Hillock is categorically not an inadequate school.
We believe that the inspections were conducted in a climate created by the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter, coupled with unproven allegations about other schools within the Trust that had started to appear in the media.
This led to unprecedented lines of enquiry from Ofsted based on proving the imposition of strict Islamic practices at Trust schools – such as segregation of boys and girls, forcing of wearing headscarves, promotion of homophobic or racist views. Golden Hillock’s Ofsted report finds absolutely no evidence of these practices.
The Trust does not accept the findings of the Ofsted report, which mischaracterises the school, and is now challenging it through the appropriate legal channels.
In disputing our school being placed in Special Measures we make the following points:
Golden Hillock is a substantially improving, not a failing school. Ofsted made no judgment, nor did they find any evidence, that extremism or radicalism is promoted or tolerated at Golden Hillock.
Ofsted judges that Golden Hillock is not doing enough to raise students’ awareness of the ‘risks of extremism’. We dispute this. It is also crucial to note that the Ofsted reports make absolutely no suggestion, nor did they find any evidence, that Golden Hillock either promotes or tolerates extremism or radicalisation.
At Golden Hillock: 52% of students achieved 5 A*‐Cs at GCSE (including English and Maths) in 2013… This is the highest result in the history of the school. This pass rate is expected to rise to 57% in 2014…
Ofsted made no judgment that boys and girls were segregated in lessons, or that girls are treated less favourably than boys. The Trust believes in the right to an excellent education for all. Ofsted made no judgments whatsoever that girls and boys were segregated by Golden Hillock, or that girls are treated less favourably.
In line with trends in secondary education across the country girls’ attainment at Golden Hillock is actually higher than boys. As we have previously stated, this simply would not be the case if girls were not getting the support they deserve.
Ofsted made no judgments that the teaching of Biology or any other Science was restricted At Golden Hillock School inspectors noted, “in art and design, science, sport and RE teaching often inspires and motivates students to work to high standards”. (GHS Ofsted 2014 page 6).
As we have previously stated, excellent exam results are quite simply not achievable if parts of the examined syllabus are being restricted…
Ofsted’s finding that our students are not being properly prepared for life in modern Britain is a misrepresentation.
“Students’ attitudes to learning are generally positive and they want to succeed.” (GHS Ofsted 2014 page 6). “The behaviour of students is good. Students and staff say that behaviour has improved substantially since the opening of the academy, and this is reflected in falling numbers of students being excluded for poor behaviour.” (GHS Ofsted 2014 page 6).
“Students are polite and courteous and behave well around the Academy site. They believe that relationships between students are good and that bullying is rare. The importance of countering bullying of all kinds is covered regularly in assemblies.” (GHS Ofsted 2014 page 6).
All lessons follow specifications from the National Curriculum and accredited exam boards, including Edexcel and AQA.
In our view this is clear proof that students are being prepared to play an integrated and respectful role within society and we are very disappointed that inspectors did not make this link. We are proud of our students and quite simply do not believe that Ofsted’s judgment of them is one that others would reach if they visited our school.
Coupled with this, the Trust’s focus on excellent results is rooted in the belief that with good qualifications young people stand a much better chance of playing an economically active and integrated role in society and making a valuable contribution to the communities in which they live.
Golden Hillock school follows Birmingham’s locally‐agreed syllabus for teaching in Key 3 which includes visits to places of worship. At Key Stage 4 (GCSE) the Edexcel exam board syllabus is taught ‐ where both units focus on Islam, as is the case in several other local schools, some of which were praised during recent Ofsted inspections.
Pupil achievement is exceptional in this subject. However, all children continue to benefit from assemblies and visits from other faith leaders during their whole time at Golden Hillock School.
Our governing body is legitimately and appropriately involved in supporting the school improvement agenda for the benefit of students The role of governing bodies is to help drive school improvement and this is clearly what they have done at Golden Hillock School The Trust accepts that there is room for improvement at its schools, but categorically does not accept that Golden Hillock School is inadequate We accept that there is room for improvement at Golden Hillock School.
In common with many schools in similar circumstances we have challenges around recruitment, staff pay and progression and embedding a new leadership and management structure following academy conversions.
However, to judge that governance – or indeed any other aspect of our schools – is inadequate and requires Special Measures is a misrepresentation.”