Private faith schools are 'spreading beliefs that clash with British values and equalities law', Ofsted warns

Inspectorate says substandard faith establishments are currently exploiting loopholes in the regulation of home schooling

Caroline Mortimer
Wednesday 13 December 2017 17:35
Comments
The number of independent schools which are rated 'not good' by Ofsted has risen to 40 per cent. Many of them are religious schools
The number of independent schools which are rated 'not good' by Ofsted has risen to 40 per cent. Many of them are religious schools

Many private faith schools are “spreading beliefs that clash with British values and equalities law”, Ofsted has warned.

The number of independent schools judged less than good increased from 31 per cent to 40 per cent in the past year and a number are “highly conservative Christian, Jewish or Muslim faith schools”, according to the annual report by the Chief Inspector of Schools at the education watchdog.

“In some of these schools, the premises are unsafe or squalid," it said. "The most basic checks are not always in place. Inspectors have also found sexist and sectarian literature in some schools.

“In even more extreme cases, children are being educated illegally in unregistered settings. This means there are no safeguards in place to make sure children are either safe or receiving a decent education.”

The independent body, which sends millions of inspectors into schools, children’s homes, nurseries and other children’s services every year, has called for stronger legislation to help inspectors to tackle unregistered schools.

They said institutions were able to exploit loopholes such as the fact there no requirement for a parent to register their kids as home educated. This means there is no record of children who have never attended school.

In February, The Independent revealed that up to 3,000 children in England could be attending illegal schools.

Of the 170 faith schools inspected by Ofsted, 57 per cent were run by Islamic faith groups, 31 per cent were run by Jewish faith groups and 12 per cent were run by Christian faith groups.

Last November Hackney Council in north east London admitted they believed there were more illegal ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools than legal ones.

The area is home to a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish Charedi community which practices a strict interpretation of their faith and avoids contact with the secular world.

One former pupil at an illegal school in Hackney told The Independent at the time he was regularly subject to “physical and psychological abuse”.

“They went to extreme length to stop us learning English,” he said. “Education is all about preparing people to make their own choices. The very ethos of these schools is to do the exact opposite and to isolate people from secular society.”

The Chief Executive of Humanists UK, previously known as the British Humanists Association, said: “We are pleased that Ofsted is taking increasingly seriously the issues that private religious schools present to ensuring tolerance and respect for all.

“But for far too long now illegal schools have been operating with impunity, due to a lack of powers for Ofsted to do anything about them. These schools often provide no education in English, maths, or science.

“On the contrary they are abusing children, and the longer they are allowed to operate, the greater the stain on this Government’s record. It is far past time that action is taken.”

The Independent has contacted the Department of Education for comment.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in