King David Ofsted visit was triggered by pupil 'concerns'

However, although the school has been downgraded from outstanding to inadequate, many complaints were unfounded

June 20, 2019 12:21

One seemingly bizarre line of enquiry pursued by Ofsted was whether King David was encouraging children to join the Israeli army.

Chairman of governors Joshua Rowe said both he and pupils had been asked about this by inspectors.

“This line of questioning was quite unacceptable,” he told the JC.

It had been triggered by a complaint to Ofsted that the school might have a high rate of absenteeism, which — the inspection service recorded — might be “related to pupils being on military service elsewhere”.

But the complaint was unfounded, said Ofsted, which observed “no unusual patterns in the attendance of sixth-form pupils”.

As a school previously graded outstanding — four years ago — King David was exempt from inspection unless prompted by concerns reported to Ofsted.

One concern that was reported was the segregation of boys and girls.

But other complaints appeared to be “without foundation,” Ofsted said. It found “no evidence that staff have used rewards such as e-cigarettes or money to encourage pupils to do as they are told and no evidence that homophobia and Islamophobia are features of the school.”

It also found nothing to suggest the school had provided insufficient pastoral support to children following the death of a pupil last year.

Although pupil attainment was high and teaching generally effective, inspectors identified some weaknesses.

While the proportion of pupils at the school going to university had increased over time, Ofsted said, extra money earmarked for disadvantaged pupils had not had sufficient impact.

While pupils reported bullying was generally dealt with by staff, they said incidents involving racist language were not always well resolved.

Two-fifths of parents who responded to Ofsted’s online survey felt the school did not deal effectively with bullying, while “only just over half” believed King David well-managed, inspectors stated (now 33 per cent and 63 per cent, according to updated figures).

“Pupils told inspectors that they are not homophobic towards each other. However, older pupils and students said that the school could do more to support gay and transgender members of the school’s community,” Ofsted said.

In a letter to parents, Mr Rowe insisted that complaints about management or bullying were “very few”.

One parent has told the JC that several pupils had left the school or moved from Yavneh to the main school because of bullying.

Mr Rowe acknowledged that three or four girls in one year group had moved from Yavneh to the main King David campus after complaining of bullying last year by peers. That number had been rare, he said — “I don’t think we have had that before.”

Where Ofsted had correctly identified room for improvement, governors were taking action, he said. The school, he pointed out, had also had to cope with “savage” government cuts of £1.5 million— 30 per cent of the budget.

But Mr Rowe believed some comments unfair, resulting from the inspectors’ decision to focus so much on the issue of separation that “they didn’t see the school”.

In its report, Ofsted noted Mr Rowe visited the school each day, but said the impact of the wider governing body was unclear and an external review of governance should be carried out.

But Mr Rowe dismissed criticism of the governing body as “absolute tripe”.

King David is the second previously outstanding Jewish school to be downgraded to inadequate this year.

Hertsmere Jewish Primary was criticised, for among others, allowing confidential information to be too openly shared.

So far, around 80 per cent of the 305 outstanding schools inspected nationally this year have been downgraded - with 14 dropping to inadequate.

Ofsted's chief inspector Amanda Spielman called this month for outstanding schools to be more routinely inspected.


June 20, 2019 12:21

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