In a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has revealed that at least 15 illegal and unregistered schools are operating across England, many of which are ‘faith’ schools. The schools identified are home to over 800 children, who according to the letter, ‘remain at significant risk of harm’ as a result of the lack of adequate regulation and safeguards. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has alerted the Department for Education (DfE) to the problem of illegal ‘faith’ schools on a number of occasions in the past, is calling on both the Government and Ofsted to do more to tackle the issue.
Acting on the instruction of officials within the DfE, Ofsted inspectors have reportedly investigated 28 institutions since September 2014 on the suspicion that unregistered schools may be operating. In 15 of those cases, evidence was found to confirm those suspicions, with some schools misusing and abusing the freedom to home educate children as ‘a cover for their activities’.
The letter draws particular attention to the example of Bordesley Independent School, a Muslim school in Birmingham, in which inspectors had found ‘squalid conditions’ and the teaching of a ‘narrow curriculum’ which failed to prepare pupils ‘for life in modern Britain’.
Sir Michael stated that the arrangements for closing down these institutions when they were identified were ‘inadequate’, before demanding that ‘all schools must be registered or closed down’. The letter was also critical of local authorities over their failure to deal with the problem, claiming that they were ‘not acting swiftly enough to identify unregistered provision’ nor to ‘ensure that all children and young people are kept safe’.
Responding to Sir Michael’s letter, Nicky Morgan said that the Government was taking ‘robust steps to tackle unregistered schools and improve safeguarding’, but that ‘more needs to be done’ if the problem is to be properly resolved.
The BHA has previously raised this issue during meetings with officials from the DfE, most recently over the summer, and just last year organised a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) at which a former pupil of an unregistered Charedi Jewish school in London shared his experiences. The BHA continues to work closely with former pupils of unregistered ‘faith’ schools to highlight the problem.
BHA Faith Schools and Education Campaigner, Jay Harman, commented ‘We’ve known for some time, and so has the Government, that a significant number of unregistered schools are operating throughout England, and it’s no secret that the vast majority of these schools are religious. Every year that the Government fails to act, thousands more children are subjected to abuse, indoctrination, and the denial of even the most basic secular education. It’s vital that both the Department for Education and Ofsted work together, not only to ensure that all these schools are identified and closed down, but also that the children within them go on to receive the education to which they are entitled.’
For further comment or information, please contact BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7324 3078.
Read Sir Michael Wilshaw’s letter to the Secretary of State for Education: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/unregistered-schools-ofsted-advice-note
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.