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Private school too focused on social justice, says Ofsted

Private school too focused on social justice, says Ofsted
Ofsted has downgraded a leading private school by placing more weight on teaching “social justice” than on learning “subject-specific knowledge and skills,” with some pupils feeling their views were “suppressed” in lessons.

The American School in London (ASL) was downgraded from “outstanding” in its previous inspection to “requires improvement.” In a report from an inspection from December 2021, Ofsted noted that leaders of the school in St John’s Wood, which educates pupils aged four to eighteen and charges £32,650 a year, had grand expectations and “gives strong importance to equality and inclusion”. “Sometimes, however, teaching places much more weight on the school’s approach to social justice than on learning subject-specific knowledge and skills” the report stated.

The report said that the school provided opportunities for pupils with distinct characteristics to discuss issues affecting them, but added, “However, not everyone felt that they are able to express their views freely in class. A significant number felt that their voices are not encouraged, or in some cases, are suppressed.” The report praised the school’s music curriculum, which it said was, “broad and balanced” but added that “in other areas of the curriculum, the approach is not as balanced.”

In November 2021, The Times reported that the institution have recruited non-white pupils to affinity groups for people of colour, which some parents felt was discriminatory towards their children. Parents also expressed concern about the teaching of concepts such as, “white fragility” to their children. Robin Appleby, who was the headteacher at the time, left the school in January.

“We have been rated outstanding in all of our previous inspections. This review, however, was unusual in scope and substance, with a narrow focus on some aspects of our programme. Despite meeting 96 per cent of the Independent School Standards, our rating was downgraded two levels. “We do not think this rating reflects the quality of our school or excellence of our teaching,” a spokesperson for ASL said.

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