School where kids were suspended after performing Nazi salutes downgraded by Ofsted

Reporter: Charlotte Hall, Local Democracy Reporter
Date published: 26 April 2024

An Oldham school has lost its ‘good’ Ofsted rating due to its pupils’ ‘derogatory and homophobic’ language – less than a year after two students were suspended for performing Nazi salutes and using racist slurs. 

Saddleworth School in Diggle received a ‘requires improvement’ rating following an inspection in January, a new report says.

Headteacher Mike Anderson said the new rating was ‘disappointing for everyone’, but insisted he had ‘absolute confidence’ the school was ‘headed in the right direction’. 

He said discriminatory behaviour at school was ‘never acceptable’ and that everyone takes intolerance of others ‘extremely seriously’. 

Pupils, the Ofsted report said, told inspectors ‘instances of derogatory language and homophobic comments were not identified by the school consistently well’.

Lead inspector Eleanor Overland wrote that the school could do more to ‘promote diversity’, adding: “Some pupils do not fully grasp the negative impact that the use of derogatory language can have on others.”

In June last year, a number of pupils were caught making monkey noises and other racist slurs at black, Asian and mixed heritage children.

There were also reports of anti-Semitic language being used towards a teacher and children performing Nazi salutes, disguised as raising a hand to answer a question. 

An investigation by the school uncovered a SnapChat group called ‘The Nazi Party’.

Members of the group shared material suggesting an interest in far-right politics.

At least two of the pupils were asked to apologise, were suspended and were isolated from their classrooms, parents were told. 

At the time, Mr Anderson said: “Discrimination and prejudice have no place at Saddleworth School and any behaviour which falls short of our expectations will be dealt with very seriously.”

The school has now put in place a personal development plan for pupils, which ‘promotes tolerance, celebrates diversity and explains modern British values’.

The school is also working towards the White Ribbon Award, which educates kids on the harmful effects of sexism and violence towards girls and women, and the Leeds Beckett Anti-Racist Award.

Mr Anderson added: “As a school, while we have a considerable amount of work to do, we are on the right path.

"I am grateful for the huge improvements we have already made – and will continue to make – to ensure our school becomes the excellent environment for learning that our children deserve.”

The report noted the progress being made and said the school was ‘aspirational for all pupils, including for those pupils with SEND’.

It praised the ‘strong subject knowledge’ of teachers; the school’s focus on reading abilities; and the way staff deal with children being absent. 

Attendance at the school has improved significantly. Mr Anderson vowed to ‘double efforts’ to support children persistently absent.

The school received an overall grade of ‘requires improvement’, as well as in the quality of education; behaviour and attitude; personal development; and leadership categories.

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