Top grammar school loses its ‘outstanding’ rating over sexist culture

One of the country’s top grammar schools has been branded “inadequate” by Ofsted after inspectors found a “pervading culture” of sexism.

Colchester Royal Grammar School in Essex was one of the schools at the heart of the “rape culture” scandal prompted by revelations published on the Everyone’s Invited website.

It is believed to be the first school to have its rating downgraded from “outstanding” – the highest grade – to “inadequate” in the wake of sexism and misogyny claims.

Last year, 39 of the school’s pupils were offered places at Oxbridge colleges and it was ranked by The Telegraph as the best grammar school in England for getting pupils into Oxford and Cambridge.

Inspectors acknowledged the institution’s academic success, saying that pupils “excel” in their studies and many “go on to study at a very high level” after leaving school.

But they marked the school as “inadequate” – the lowest grade – owing to the poor behaviour of students as well as unsatisfactory leadership and management.

Inspectors said that some pupils did not feel safe “because of a culture which allows them to be victimised for being themselves”, adding that many pupils did not raise concerns with the school.

Insulting and damaging comments 

“A significant number of pupils feel uncomfortable or unsafe in school and report being the subject of insulting and damaging comments regarding their gender, appearance, race or sexual orientation,” the report found.

“Leaders have failed to recognise or address a pervading culture in the school which does not promote equality and respect.

“Leaders have not ensured that boys understand how to interact appropriately with girls. Consequently, some boys are rude about girls, judge them by their appearance and make inappropriate remarks. Parts of the school have become a hostile environment for some pupils.”

The school was founded in 1128 and was later granted a royal charter by Henry VIII in 1539 followed by another from Elizabeth I in 1584.

Its alumni – known as Old Colcestrians – include Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, and Sir George Biddell Airy, the former Astronomer Royal.

Inspectors said that many pupils are “treated badly because of their protected characteristics, such as their gender, race or sexual orientation” and that discriminatory remarks “are too common among some pupils”. They found that school leaders do not do enough to “prevent or combat” this.

‘Toxic rape culture’

In April a former pupil accused the school of having a “toxic and ubiquitous rape culture” and said that she and her friends were left “traumatised” by their experience at the school.

At the time, the headteacher John Russell said he was “shocked” and “saddened” to read about the “wholly unacceptable” behaviour of ex-pupils.

Mr Russell said the Ofsted report was “very difficult” to read and that this was a “sad day” for the school.

He said that the school “demands the very best of our students and ourselves”, adding: “We have never shied away from the fact that we believe that there is always more that we can, and want, to do for our students.

He said he believes the strengths of the school are “not fully reflected in the report” but added that he will act on the findings of inspectors.

“Our focus has to be on driving forward improvements and building on our many strengths and successes,” he said.

“Key to this will be continuing to enhance our culture where our students show greater respect for themselves and for others, and eliminating the use of derogatory and discriminatory language.”

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