Surrey school slammed by Ofsted due to 'racist and homophobic banter' being 'normalised'

blue school hallway lockers and checkered tile in high school students in the background (down-sampled to increase sharpness)
-Credit: (Image: James Pauls/Getty Images)

A Surrey school has been slammed by Ofsted for allowing 'racist and homophobic banter' to become 'normalised' in the school community.

Sunbury Manor School, in Sunbury, was previously rated 'Good', the second best rating, at its previous inspection in 2019. But a report published this week (June 2024) rates it Inadequate (the worst rating) in all areas. Back in 2019, inspectors found the school to be ‘inclusive’ and ‘respectful’ - but there has since been a ‘sharp decline’ in standards.

Inspectors said prejudicial language has become the norm, and this had “allowed a culture of racist and homophobic ‘banter’ to develop”, the report stated. Inspectors, who first visited April 30, noted discriminatory language is not consistently challenged in the age 11-16 comprehensive school, so it continued.

The inspector wrote: "The school’s expectations of pupils are too low The use of racist and homophobic language has become normalised between pupils. Many say that they would not report this behaviour because they are not confident it will be dealt with effectively. They are justified in feeling this way. When issues are reported, leaders do not always take appropriate action. This has allowed a culture of racist and homophobic‘banter’ to develop."

Read more: Surrey school turns around Ofsted rating praised for 'polite and joyful' students

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Outside Sunbury Manor School.  (Credit: Google Street view)
A new headteacher at Sunbury Manor School started June 17 -Credit: (Credit: Google Street view)

Inspectors also highlighted that rates of absence are high with students. When pupils do attend school, many are late, truant to lessons or their whereabouts is unknown.

The report added: "This includes some pupils who are vulnerable, for example because they require the involvement of children’s social care. There is a lack of oversight of pupils on reduced timetables. The whereabouts of these pupils is sometimes unknown. Pupils frequently ignore the requests of staff to engage in lessons. Some pupils truant their lessons and disturb other classes."

This issue is not helped by high staff turnover, the report added, meaning there are lots of temporary supply teachers who have had to fill in. Many are new to the school or are employed on a temporary basis.

Although the school’s published outcomes are low across the board, Ofsted notes this is particularly the case for disadvantaged pupils, whose progress is typically well below average. Students with SEND do not receive high-quality education and staff are not knowledgeable of their individual needs.

The school is soon to get a new headteacher. The report states that both pupils and staff have been frustrated by a lack of consistent and effective leadership in the school over time. They are looking forward to the newly appointed headteacher taking up post soon, it added. A new headteacher at Sunbury Manor School started June 17.

Starting as the new headteacher last Monday, June 17, David Lee told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) he is “doing everything in [his] power” to improve the school and “do right by the Sunbury community”.

The Ofsted report details the position of the school six weeks before the new head started his new role. Mr Lee said wanted to focus on “moving forward” and “where the school is going”.

Mr Lee said he “did not feel able to comment on the specifics of the Ofsted report” as it was before his time at the school. He added the report is not “where we are, not who we are and not what we want to be identified as”.

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