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Ofsted visit to Muslim girls school stopped after inspector wore shoes in prayer room

By Tom Dare | Birmingham | Education | Published:

An Ofsted inspection of a Muslim girls school was cut short after an inspector walked into a prayer room wearing shoes.

Cannon Hill Girls School. Photo: Google

Cannon Hill Girls School, an independent girls school in Birmingham, has been rated as 'inadequate' by Ofsted following what was the school's first inspection since opening in 2018.

But leaders at the school, which charges £4,000 a year in tuition fees, have criticised the inspectors, saying they felt "belittled and degraded" by one of the team's conduct, adding that they are "increasingly doubtful" about being able to place any faith in Ofsted's judgements.

According to the Ofsted report, school leaders were “unwilling to cooperate with inspectors" and “prevented inspectors from collecting the full range of evidence that was needed to inform the inspection”.

The school opened in February 2018 and caters for pupils aged 9-12. At the time of the inspection in late November there were just 21 pupils at the school, though the facility has capacity for 100.

The Ofsted report, which was published last week, praises the school for its provision in mathematics and English but said that other subjects were not covered “in enough depth”.

However its main criticisms were levelled at staff at the school for their behaviour during the inspection, with documents noting: “During the inspection, several key documents were withheld from inspectors by the leadership team.

“Inspection activities were not permitted to continue after the second on-site day of the inspection. On the third on site day, the principal obstructed the inspection.

“Leaders were unwilling to cooperate with inspectors. Judgements were made based on the evidence inspectors were able to secure.”

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The report did note that pupils “behaved well over time,” and that they “enjoyed coming to school, and are safe and well looked after”.

The school hit back in its response, revealing that they have complained to Ofsted about the conduct of its inspectors during the visit.

A statement from the school said: “Our decision not to engage with one inspector during the inspection was as a direct result of unacceptable inspection practices and a refusal to respect and observe our religious customs.

“One inspector walked into our prayer room with her shoes on, despite shoe covers being available.

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"It is an established custom in our faith not to enter such areas with outdoor footwear.

“We simply could not allow the dignity and respect owed to our staff, pupils and school to be eroded any further during the inspection and took the decision to raise our concerns with Ofsted’s helpdesk.

“Due to our serious objections to one of the inspectors continuing, Ofsted determined that the inspection would be concluded on the evidence collected up to that point.

“We have called for a further inspection to address the inherent issues with this inspection. Trustees and senior leaders are committed to meeting the independent school standards and to demonstrating compliance to our regulators.

“The current judgements do not reflect our school and we are comforted that our parents and the community share our growing concerns about Ofsted.

“We are all increasingly doubtful about being able to place any faith in inspection judgements.”

Tom Dare

By Tom Dare

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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