Luton school head says he will challenge ‘half-baked’ Ofsted report

The head of an Islamic faith school says he will challenge an Ofsted report written by inspectors who asked nine-year-old students to define homosexuality.

Enraged parents at Olive Tree Primary School, Bury Park Road, threatened to take their children out of the independent school on Thursday after the Ofsted representatives admitted to questioning a group of nine and ten-year-old pupils on their understanding of homosexuality and gay marriage.

The schools watchdog has said that the session was designed to gauge tolerance at the school and its pupils, though parents have said that the incident “unduly sexualised” their children.

Islam forbids homosexuality and Olive Tree does not teach sexual education.

After being confronted during a planned meeting with parents on Thursday, inspectors agreed to leave the school and say they have information to complete a report – despite completing just two of the four days they were to spend there.

Headteacher Abdul Qadeer Baksh told Luton News that he would reject and challenge the report, given the short stay of inspectors.

He said: “I told them that they had more than a day and a half still to complete with plenty left to see at the school but they told me they had enough. The report will not be accurate, I asked them to come back another time but they will not. It will be half-baked and I will challenge it. I will not accept it.”

Mr Baksh revealed that more than 20 parents called him on Wednesday evening, while many more called during the meeting with inspectors on Thursday.

He said: “Children went home and told their parents about it, I didn’t know that this had happened until I started getting calls about it. Parents told the inspectors that it was discrimination and it encroached on their rights. They did not advise me that they would ask these questions and the parents were really outraged by this.”

“These are only primary school children and as it is a faith school it is not compulsory for us to teach sexual education. From my perspective as head, this happened during SATs exam week and it was in best interests that the children sat those exams without distractions.”

Farasat Latif, parent and chair of the school’s trust, said that the questions asked by inspectors “unduly sexualised” pupils.

He added: “We took statements from children and most of them said that they were asked to explain what the word gay means, also what they think of gay people. Two girls said they felt uncomfortable and were pressurised to answer the question.

“Another boy said he knew what it meant but did not want to talk about it, most said that it was quite persistent and they felt interrogated.

“Thankfully my girl was not in the group selected but parents have said that their children came home and asked them what being gay meant. These are children, we do not expose them to sexual things or anything of a violent nature.”

Mr Latif has collated the children’s accounts of the incident and will seek legal advice.

He said: “The whole school was up in arms. What gives them the right to come into the school and ride roughshod over a curriculum which does not teach sexual education? We wanted an apology for asking the questions but they would not give us one. Tolerance can be gauged by asking about gender, disability, races, any number of different things.”

An Ofsted spokeswoman told Luton News that “sufficient evidence was gathered to complete the inspection.”

She added: “The Independent School Standards, published by the Department for Education, set out that schools have a duty to teach pupils tolerance of different groups within society. 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.”

Luton News, 21 May 2014

Update:  See “Scathing report could shut Muslim school for promoting Salafi beliefs”, Guardian, 21 May 2014

And “‘Abhorrent to British society’: Damning Ofsted report accuses Luton school of promoting fundamentalist Islam and having library books on stoning women”, Daily Mail, 22 May 2014