Madrassas, Yeshivas, and Sunday Schools providing supplementary education to children are to be forced to register and be inspected, the Prime Minister has announced. Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester yesterday, David Cameron stressed that the Government would prioritise the tackling of extremism and segregation in society over the next five years, and that a focus on religious supplementary schools and alternative education settings would form a key part of that. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which met with the Department for Education over the summer to call for action on unregistered ‘faith’ schools, has welcomed the move.
During his speech, the PM criticised the narrow, divisive and inward-looking education that many institutions were providing, and stated that ‘children should be having their minds opened, their horizons broadened, not having their heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate.’
Under the proposed changes, all institutions teaching children for more than eight hours a week will be required to register with the Department for Education, regardless of their religious character or affiliation. They will then be subject to inspection by the school inspectorate Ofsted, and could be forced to close if they do not meet the requisite standard or if they are found to be ‘teaching intolerance’. A consultation on these arrangements is expected in the coming months.
The BHA has long called for a tightening of the inspection framework in religious educational settings, whether supplementary or not, and has met with the Department for Education on a number of occasions to highlight the growing number of children being taught in unregistered, unaccountable ‘faith’ schools.
Commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement, the BHA’s Education Campaigner Jay Harman, said ‘We have long drawn attention to the fact that far, far too many children in this country spend their childhoods trapped by hateful and fundamentalist religious teaching, isolated from wider society in unregistered and indoctrinatory schools. The Prime Minister is absolutely right to crack down on them. Of course, it remains the case that the inspection of ‘faith’ schools in general is inadequate and fails to effectively combat the kind of intolerance the PM is seeking to address, so we hope that the Government will not overlook these wider issues when it comes to announce the proposals in full. We look forward to taking part in the consultation when it is launched.’
For further comment or information, please contact the BHA’s Faith Schools Campaigner Jay Harman on 020 7324 3078 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about the BHA’s work on ‘faith’ schools: https://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.