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Ofsted downgrades top grammar school over ‘hostile environment’ of sexism and racism

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Ofsted has rated one of the country’s top grammar schools as “inadequate” after inspectors found pupils feel “unsafe” after being subject to sexist or racist comments.

Parts of Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS) in Essex have become a “hostile environment,” the school’s watchdog ruled after its inspection in May.

Inspectors found leaders at the school, which has more than 1,000 pupils, have not ensured boys understand “how to interact appropriately” with girls.

It comes after Ofsted’s review last month concluded that incidents of sexual harassment and abuse has become “normalised” for schoolchildren.

Ofsted visited 32 state and private schools and colleges and spoke to more than 900 young people about sexual harassment after thousands of testimonials were posted on website Everyone’s Invited.

The inspection at CRGS found leadership, behaviour and attitudes, and personal development at the school to be “inadequate”, despite the school scoring “good” for education and sixth form provision.

In its previous inspection, before its conversion to an academy in 2012, it was rated “outstanding” overall.

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The report said: “A significant number of pupils feel uncomfortable or unsafe in school and report being the subject of insulting and damaging comments regarding their gender, appearance, race or sexual orientation.

“Pupils are too often reluctant to pass their concerns on to staff. Systems for dealing with safeguarding matters do not work properly. Consequently, leaders are largely unaware of the difficulties some pupils face.”

It said school leaders have “failed to recognise or address a pervading culture in the school which does not promote equality and respect.”

It added: “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.”

This week, the Department for Education (DfE) said school and college staff should assume that peer-on-peer abuse is happening even if no reports are made.

Updated safeguarding guidance says staff in schools and colleges should reassure victims that they will be taken seriously and that they will be supported and kept safe when they make a report of abuse.

John Russell, headmaster at the school, said the report was “very difficult to read” and it was a “sad day” for the school.

He said: “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. We continually strive to improve every aspect of life at CRGS, and we have worked hard to adopt best practice in creating an environment where our students can flourish.”

Mr Russell added the school feels its strengths were not fully reflected in the report but it will listen to what the inspection team found and continue to act on it.