Ofsted inspectors are “unfairly influenced” by “inaccurate presumptions about Catholic schools” and that simply being religious is becoming “a red flag” to the schools inspection body, according to the Catholic Education Service (CES).
The complaint is in a written submission from the CES to the House of Commons Education Committee.
“We are concerned about the lack of consistency in inspection outcomes and believe that more guidance is needed to support inspectors,” the CES said.
“There is evidence that some inspection teams are starting with inaccurate presumptions about Catholic schools which are unfairly influencing their inspection,” the statement continued, adding “there sometimes appears to be a starting presumption that Catholic schools will be less good at dealing with certain issues, for example homophobic bullying”.
The CES submission said that “it does sometimes appear that Ofsted probe more thoroughly in Catholic schools than they do in other non-denominational schools even when the evidence points towards a Catholic school performing well in this area”.
It continued: “We are anxious that simply having a religious character may in itself become a red flag for Ofsted which would be grossly unfair.”
A spokesman for the CES said that their main concern with Ofsted was “a lack of consistency in their inspections”, and with “individual inspectors overstepping the line”. The CES report said: “Inspections can be unduly influenced by the character of either the lead inspector or the robustness of the head teacher.”
The CES highlighted the case of St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury St Edmunds, where a year ago inspectors criticised the way the school “prepared students for life in modern Britain”. The judgement was withdrawn and amended, CES said, but “the school remained on an Ofsted list of schools causing concern in relation to British values. This caused much upset from parents and the local community who felt that their school had been unfairly penalised for teaching within a Catholic ethos.”
The spokesman distanced the CES from the more critical response of the Christian Institute. The CES report welcomed “the recent positive engagement between Ofsted and denominational inspection coordinators” which “has offered greater clarity to the differing remit of each inspectorate”.
Paul Barber, director of CES, said: “We have a very strong and positive working relationship with Ofsted. Our written response to the Education Select Committee highlighted the need for consistency across Ofsted inspections as well as greater clarity regarding Prevent duties and the teaching of British Values. This transparency is needed by all schools, not just Catholic ones.”