Ofsted has concluded it has no serious concerns about a school at the centre of a gender row, saying Rye College has a “culture of kindness and mutual support” and mostly “manages pupils’ discussions well”.
The East Sussex school made national headlines last month after a recording went viral of a teacher branding a pupil “despicable” during an argument over identity.
It was widely reported the dispute erupted after the child rejected a classmate’s request to be identified as a cat. But this was not clear from the recording and the school insisted none of its pupils “identify as a cat or any other animal”.
Matthew Haynes, an HMI who visited on the school as part of an urgent inspection on June 29, said the “concerns relating to the teaching of RSHE that led to this inspection do not reflect pupils’ normal experiences at school”.
The monitoring visit – which Haynes undertook with fellow HMI Sue Keeling – took place after equalities minister Kemi Badenoch demanded a snap inspection.
The visit focused particularly on relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) and the teaching of protected characteristics.
In a letter to the school, Haynes said if the team had “serious concerns” it would deem the urgent inspection as a graded inspection immediately.
“This inspection gave us no such concerns,” he continued.
College ‘manages discussions well’
“The vast majority of pupils develop a secure understanding of protected characteristics and why they are important,” the letter states.
“They learn about the law that underpins them, the variety of views in our society and the importance of debating these and respecting each others’ views.”
It added that leaders had “created a culture of kindness and mutual support” where “teachers have good subject knowledge and very largely promote debate and manage pupils’ discussions well”.
Findings also show that the school ensured that RSHE lessons covered the requirements of statutory guidance.
Rye College said it had been “confident” about the conclusions inspectors would reach.
“We remain committed to offering our community an inclusive education, in line with best practice that prepares our young people for the world in which we live,” said a spokesperson.
“As an organisation, we seek to improve by continuously reviewing our actions and will enhance our current practice, including all classroom-based staff receiving further training to support them in managing complex and contentious discussions within a classroom setting and on protected characteristics status.”
They added that the school would implement and train staff “appropriately” on new Department for Education guidance on gender identity, which is understood to be due before parliamentary recess.