Ofsted releases its findings following snap inspection at school where student 'identified as a cat'

Ofsted found “sensitive and impartial” teaching of relationships and sex education. ​

Ofsted found “sensitive and impartial” teaching of relationships and sex education.

Sam Montgomery

By Sam Montgomery

Published: 14/07/2023

- 15:29

Rye College was given a clean bill of sex education health by inspectors

Ofsted have released findings from an urgent inspection on the school at the centre of a media firestorm last month.

Rye College hit the headlines after a secret video appeared to capture pupils arguing with a teacher over gender and self-identification.

In the video, a teacher reprimands a student as "despicable" for questioning a classmate identifying as a cat.

However, an Ofsted inspection of the school in East Sussex, which was demanded by Kemi Badenoch, has found only “sensitive and impartial” teaching of relationships and sex education.

Rye College, in East SussexA school teacher told a student she was 'despicable' after she challenged another classmate who identifies as a catGoogle Maps

The report said: “The concerns relating to the teaching of [relationship, health and sex education] that led to this inspection do not reflect pupils’ normal experiences at school."

Although the report does not directly address the argument between the teacher and pupils, or the question of whether any pupils identify as animals, it praises the quality of staff training and teaching of relationship and sex education “in a sensitive and impartial way”.

Ofsted’s lead inspector, Matthew Haynes, said in the report: “Pupils are taught how to debate contentious subjects. Most pupils learn to do so respectfully and maturely.

“For example, pupils are clear that there are contested views about gender, sexuality and whether these are assigned at birth.

ClassroomPupils have admitted classmates answering with animal noises can be distractingUnsplash

“One pupil summed up the views of many when he said, ‘We are taught to think for ourselves, but also to respect everybody’s point of view.’”

Praised for promoting a “culture of kindness,” Rye College has been given the all clear by inspectors.

The report also found that most parents of pupils at the school were “impressed” by Rye College’s handling of sensitive issues.

The report noted: “Reflecting the views of many other parents, one commented, ‘Rye College is a great school. My child is very happy, feels safe and is supported by teachers.’”

A Rye College spokesperson said: “We welcomed Ofsted’s visit as we were confident in what they would find and in the conclusions they would reach.

“We are pleased that the letter clearly states that the event that led to the inspection ‘[does] not reflect pupils’ normal experience at school’. We remain committed to offering our community an inclusive education, in line with best practice that prepares our young people for the world in which we live.”

Schools are increasingly being caught between a rock and a hard place over pupils identifying as animals and inanimate objects.


Michelle Dewberry 'identifies as a cat' in GB News appearanceMichelle Dewberry 'identifies as a cat' in GB News appearanceGB News

Pupils and teachers alike are aware that such self-identification can cause disruption, yet many do not voice their concerns for fear of being cancelled.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There was a huge amount of political and media noise around the incident which led to this inspection and which we can now see very clearly from the findings of this report was blown out of all proportion.

“The most ridiculous aspect of that media and political noise was the suggestion that children were identifying as animals in schools on a widespread basis – something we have never heard of and never had reported to us by any school or college leader.

“We would urge politicians in particular to establish the facts before leaping on stories in the media and remember that there are real people – students, staff, and parents – who are deeply affected by suddenly finding themselves in the eye of a manufactured storm.”

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