Standalone trust could be stripped of school over ‘culture’ of sexism

The DfE has issued beefed-up guidance on tackling sexual misconduct in schools, warning downplaying it as "banter" or "boys being boys" can normalise abuse.

An academy trust could be stripped of its only school after Ofsted found a “pervading culture” of sexist and other discrimination had created a “hostile environment”.

Colchester Royal Grammar School is awaiting its fate after receiving a termination warning notice, following Ofsted’s “inadequate” judgement and warning some pupils felt “unsafe” in July.

The inspectorate visited in the wake of a flurry of allegations posted online by current and former students about their experiences of sexual harassment. The school was among those named on the Everyone’s Invited website.

Ofsted found some pupils did not feel safe because of a “culture which allows them to be victimised for being themselves”, and which “does not promote equality and respect”.

A newly published letter by Sue Baldwin, the outgoing regional schools commissioner for the east of England and north-east London, to the school warned the Essex trust could now have its funding agreement withdrawn.

Such a move could lead to CRGS being rebrokered to another trust, and send a significant signal to other schools of the sanctions officials are prepared to use to stamp out harassment.

Baldwin warned she had “serious concerns that the trust does not
have the capacity to make rapid and sustained improvement at the academy” on the basis of the Ofsted judgment.

Ofsted had also found safeguarding arrangements were “not effective”, with too many pupils unwilling and too few effective systems to share concerns with adults in school.

“Leaders have not ensured that boys understand how to interact appropriately with girls. Consequently, some boys are rude about girls, judge them by their appearance and make inappropriate remarks. Parts of the school have become a hostile environment for some pupils.”

Ofsted also found PSHE was “weak”, with not enough training or leadership checks on what is taught.

The school dates back centuries, and according to analysis earlier this year by The Telegraph, it sent more pupils to Oxbridge than any other grammar school in the country – at 46.

A school spokesperson said the inspection report had been “very difficult” to read, and the school was acting on it.

“We have never shied away from the fact that we believe that there is always more that we can, and want, to do for our students.”

He said the school, which dates back hundreds of years, had “worked hard” to create an environment where students can flourish.

He added that while the termination warning “sounds quite daunting”, it meant the school could be transferred to another trust if certain conditions are not met rather than that the school faced closure.

The school is working with the DfE and RSC on next steps and the “increased focus” on the school, he added.

But the spokesperson also said inspectors had recognised the “quality of education and our students’ attitudes to learning”, but the schools’ strengths were “not fully reflected in the report”.

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