The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed a report that the controversial Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI) is to be closed down, following what it describes as ‘unforeseen staffing pressures’. The BSI, an independent inspectorate that inspects private schools in England from either the Christian Schools’ Trust (CST) network or the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS), has come under significant pressure in recent months over its failure to identify signs of extremism and radicalisation in the schools it inspects. The BHA had previously called on the body to be investigated and if necessary disbanded after it was revealed that a number of its inspectors held creationist, homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-apostate views.
In addition to these controversies, a number of concerns have been raised about the independence of the BSI’s inspectors from the schools they inspect. The organisation is known to use head teachers from AMS schools to inspect other AMS schools, and Tahir Alam, who was at the centre of the Trojan Horse allegations, has also been an inspector, despite having been a vice-chairman of the AMS.
The BSI is one of three independent inspectorates for groups of private schools, the others being the School Inspection Service, which inspects Exclusive Brethren and Steiner schools, and the Independent Schools Inspectorate. The BHA has long campaigned on the problems involved with the BSI and SIS, and last year was successful in securing a change to the regulations during a Government consultation on the rules surrounding such inspectorates. The draft regulations proposed to require inspectorates and inspectors to be independent from the schools they inspect, which was itself a welcome proposal, but the BHA’s response to the consultation called for inspectors to also have to be independent from any association representing the school. This change was included in the updated regulations and advice and is identified as a factor in the BSI’s inability to continue operations.
Reacting to the news, BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Jay Harman said: ‘If we are to ensure that children are being prepared for life in a diverse, tolerant and inclusive way, it’s absolutely vital that schools are inspected both rigorously and impartially. We’ve long been concerned about not only the impartiality of the BSI’s inspectors, but also the pseudoscientific and extremist beliefs many of them have been alleged to hold, and we’re glad to see it reported that the body will no longer be involved in inspecting schools. When it comes to issues like education about religion, belief, and science, the framework for inspecting private schools should be no less robust than it is for state schools and we would encourage the Department for Education and Ofsted to make efforts to ensure this is the case.’
For further comment or information, please contact BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7324 3078.
Read our previous news item on the Bridge Schools Inspectorate: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/05/12/creationists-religious-hardliners-found-inspecting-private-christian-muslim-schools/
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.