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Bury St Edmunds: Ofsted accused of being ‘heavy handed’ following judgement of St Benedict’s School

PUBLISHED: 11:41 05 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:15 05 October 2014

Hugh O'Neill, headteacher of St Benedict's School, Bury St Edmunds.

Hugh O'Neill, headteacher of St Benedict's School, Bury St Edmunds.

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The schools regulator Ofsted has withdrawn an inspection report which claims a Catholic School in Suffolk is not adequately guarding children against extremism.

St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury St. Edmunds received a surprise call from Ofsted asking it to remove its latest report from the school website as further “quality assurance checks” needed to take place.

The school - which was previously rated “good” by Ofsted and recently celebrated its best GCSE results for three years - received a judgement of “requires improvement” following a snap inspection on September 11 and 12.

It is understood the school is among about 40 nationally which were subject to a ‘no-notice’ inspection in the wake of reports into the alleged ‘Trojan horse’ takeover plot by hardline Muslims at a number of Birmingham schools.

The withdrawn report says “the younger students show less awareness of the dangers of extremism and radicalisation” and “it is not made clear how all students are prepared for life and work in modern Britain”.

Hugh O’Neill, headteacher at St Benedict’s Catholic School, believes the school was targeted in the recent wave of unannounced inspections because its website lacked a statement on citizenship.

He told the East Anglian Daily Times: “The judgement was disappointing for us and I think it was quite surprising for parents and colleagues as well.

“I have had a lot of calls from parents and emails from them expressing support and none of them have found the report to match their own view of the school.”

Mr O’Neill believes his school was the first the team of four inspectors had assessed under the new criteria, which he felt could have been the source of the issues.

“It now appears there are some misgivings about the validity of the report - there must have been some misgivings otherwise they wouldn’t have taken it down.”

Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), described Ofsted’s original judgement of “requires improvement” as really unfair, adding the regulator had taken a “really heavy-handed” approach following the investigations in Birmingham.

“I’m not sure if you went out into the general public and asked ‘do you understand what radicalisation means?’ they would be able to answer that question, let alone ask students.”

He added: “I hope Ofsted come up with a commonsense approach and withdraw that judgement from the school and the school can continue to improve on a good or an outstanding [rating]; if you look at the results that’s what the school is.”

The withdrawn report, which had not yet been published on the Ofsted website, said: “The delivery of citizenship education is not made clear, or how the school teaches students about the dangers of extremism and radicalisation.”

Other complaints included the quality of teaching and that disabled students and those with special needs do not make as much progress as others in English and maths.

Mr O’Neill said he would not necessarily argue with the areas for improvement, but believed most schools assessed in the first week of term would have been given a similar set of action points.

“We are awaiting the outcome from Ofsted with some interest,” he said.

An Ofsted spokesman said: “Following a review of the report by the East of England regional director, we have delayed the publication of the report to allow further quality assurance checks to take place.”

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