A LEADING councillor has called for people to look to the future of children’s education at a school where Ofsted inspectors claimed pupils’ racist and homophobic abuse went unchallenged by teachers.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for customer engagement Councillor Greg White was speaking following criticism of the leadership of Lady Lumley’s School in Pickering for launching legal challenges of the watchdog’s finding.

The authority is setting up an interim executive board to take over governance of the school which was founded in 1670 as it moves towards academy status as a result of its ‘inadequate’ rating from Ofsted.

The report stated: “A large minority of pupils do not feel safe in school. They do not feel protected from bullying. They are fearful of, and are fed up with, the behaviour of a small group of pupils. They hear abusive language regularly, which is not routinely challenged by staff. They are not confident that leaders will sort any of this out. Some pupils have come to accept that this is how it is.”

The Ofsted inspectors said leaders and governors had failed to understand the reasons why a large minority of pupils do not feel safe in school. They added leaders’ systems to accurately and thoroughly identify and evaluate pupils’ views about school were ineffective.

The report stated: “Leaders, including governors, should review the ways in which the views of pupils and parents are gathered, analysed and evaluated so that they capture an accurate picture of the school.

“Leaders think that they take bullying seriously and believe that they act on it effectively. However, a large minority of pupils, and parents, do not share this view. Leaders should review and evaluate the ways in which they manage bullying so that pupils and parents can have confidence that leaders protect pupils from bullying.”

Stephen Croft, the school’s chairman of governors, has defended the school’s decision to take legal action, saying the council “agreed that the Ofsted judgement was wrong”. He said Ofsted inspectors witnessed no bad behaviour during their two-day visit, and despite having their findings questioned, the watchdog had refused to reconsider its verdict.

He said: “Given the damage that an ‘inadequate’ rating would do to the school, including forcing the school to join an academy chain, our only remedy was to seek a judicial review. Legal challenges cost money but the school had built up a surplus to deal with unforeseen circumstances. In the end, North Yorkshire County Council panicked about the costs and pulled the plug on our action, just before the court decision.” Mr Croft said if schools dispute Ofsted’s ratings or findings, an independent review should be available.

A county council spokesman said its decision to intervene had been made as a result of the Ofsted inspection and information from the school regarding the likely cost of court action. He said the scale of the costs of pushing for a judicial review prompted the authority to immediately impose spending restrictions for the school.

Cllr White, who represents Pickering division, said it was crucial everyone worked with the schools’ commissioner to assist in the appointment of the best multi academy trust to run the school.

He said: “When school leaders are faced with a devastatingly critical Ofsted report, which they believe to be deeply flawed and unfair, they are bound to want to challenge it. We could have an inquest into how a school, which has good teachers, good teaching and good results, has ended up in this position. In my view, it is more important to work with the Schools’ Commissioner, to try and ensure that she chooses a multi-academy trust that will be responsive to the needs of parents, pupils and the wider Pickering community.”