Ofsted chief attacks Church for preventing inspections of Sunday schools

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph

The head of Ofsted has attacked the Church for preventing inspections of Sunday schools, The Telegraph reports.

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector, said it is a “matter of regret” that the Church of England blocked changes to the law that would have allowed out-of-school provisions to be inspected.

She called on ministers to update legislation and give Ofsted more powers to scrutinize settings where children are educated outside of school hours, in order to protect them from being indoctrinated by extreme religious views.

Speaking at the Church of England’s Foundation for Educational Leadership annual conference, Ms Spielman said Ofsted must be able to inspect out-of-school provisions – such as Sunday schools and Bible clubs – so that “the small minority of settings that promote extremism are not able to evade scrutiny”.

“There are segments of particular faiths who are determined to use our schools to promote beliefs and practices that are an anathema to British values,” she said.

“If we are to tackle this practice effectively, we will require changes to legislation to give us better powers.”

Ms Spielman said that one of Ofsted’s greatest concerns is “what is happening under the radar in so-called out-of-school provision”.  She said it is “hard to think of a more British institution than a Sunday school”, adding that other faiths provide positive and enriching activity groups for children.

“But some other out-of-school settings operate less benignly,” she warned. “These institutions, some of which operate as illegal schools, use the opportunity to – in the words of the former Prime Minister – put ‘poison in the minds, hatred in hearts’ of young people. They need to be tackled.”

 She took aim at the Church’s role in preventing this, as she recalled how a government plan to require all groups caring for children for more than six hours a week to submit to inspection was dropped in 2016, following an intervention from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and a group of crossparty MPs, who labelled the proposals “bewildering”.

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“That is why I am afraid to say it is a matter of regret that the church has resisted changes in the law to allow Ofsted to inspect these settings,” she said.

“This is not about infringing religious freedom: no one is proposing a troop of inspectors turning up at Sunday schools. Instead, it is about ensuring that the small minority of settings that promote extremism are not able to evade scrutiny.

“If we are to protect many of the tenets that the Church holds dear, we need the power to tackle those trying to use education to undermine them.

Nigel Genders, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, agreed that Church schools “must not and will not shy away from challenging fundamentalist practice in the name of promoting tolerance”.

He said: “To that end we support tackling potential extremism in out-of-school settings including, potentially, through targeted inspections.

“We did have concerns over proposals in 2015 which, at the time, could have ensured that everything down to village Sunday schools might have to be registered.

“We have worked closely with Government since then, and are happy to go on working them on any proposal that would target areas of concern rather than imposing a new burden of bureaucracy across the board.”

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