Outstanding Tower Hamlets school downgraded over ‘extremism’ failings

Outstanding Tower Hamlets school downgraded over 'extremism' failings

A Church of England secondary school has been rated inadequate – down from outstanding – after Ofsted found that not enough was done to ensure its students understood the risks of extremism. The inspectorate has recommended that the school be put into special measures immediately.

Sir John Cass school in Tower Hamlets, east London, has been hit with the finding after receiving a no-notice inspection last month – part of a wave of such inspections launched by Ofsted following the ‘Trojan Horse’ revelations.

News of the school’s rating leaked out earlier this week, but the full reasons for the finding have now emerged with the publication of the school’s full Ofsted report.

The inspection found that:

– the school had not done enough to ensure that students, staff and governors understood the risks of extremism

– monitoring of student groups, including the school’s Islamic society, was not sufficient

– sixth form students had not been given enough guidance on “danger associated with using the internet”, particularly in relation to extremist views

– boys and girls were segregated at times, with separate entrances and playgrounds for children of each gender.

Ofsted said that the secondary school, which has a majority of Bangladeshi heritage pupils, had not responded effectively to police concerns last year about social media postings which the inspectorate said included “links to individuals associated with extremist views and actions”.

The inspection report said that these included messages discouraging “students from attending school events, such as a fundraising karaoke evening, because the activities do not adhere to a particular religious viewpoint”.

“One posting states that any sixth form students who attended a ‘leavers’ party’ and engaged in ‘free-mixing’ or ‘listening to music’ would face ‘severe consequences later’. A further uploaded video included a speaker who mocked perceived ‘feminine’ behaviour in men,” the report said.

The inspection report also found that formal and informal segregation of students occurred in the school, “limiting … opportunities for boys and girls to interact socially and develop skills for life in modern Britain.”

The school has separate entrances for boys and girls, and separate spaces for use at breaktimes and lunchtimes, the inspectorate said, although the inspection report also noted that the school had mixed dining and study areas.

The school received inadequate ratings for leadership and management, the behaviour and safety of pupils, and for its sixth form provision, but good ratings for the quality of its teaching and achievement of pupils.

The school is one of the highest performing in Tower Hamlets, with 82 per cent of pupils receiving five or more A*-C grades at GCSE including English and maths in 2013. Only last month it was given ‘Gold club’ status from the London Mayor – a group set up to share good practice with other London schools.

The Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, said that that her department would be monitoring the school to ensure the concerns raised were addressed.

She said: “We are already in discussion with the local authority regarding Sir John Cass and we will be monitoring the school very closely to ensure that the highlighted issues are tackled quickly.

“We know that the LA and local school leaders are determined to build a resilient community and the Government will work with local school leaders and governors to ensure that children are not put at risk from extremism”.

Speaking yesterday, ahead of the publication of the inspection report, Sir John Cass headteacher Haydn Evans said: “We are surprised by the outcome of the Ofsted inspection, as we have always taken safeguarding very seriously.

“The teaching and results of this school remain good, which they have been since 1999, and my priority now is to address the issues that have been identified and to work closely with the local authority and the Diocese to return the school as quickly as possible to an outstanding school.”

The school – Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School to give it its full title – was rated outstanding when last receiving a full inspection in 2008. That verdict was upheld in an interim assessment during 2011.