The Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon MP, has called for a tightening of the law around unregistered schools. Stating that he has ‘huge concerns about unregistered schools and the lack of regulation and inspection’, Mr Halfon argued that ‘any school of any kind shouldn’t be unregistered’ and stressed that ‘there should not be room for grey areas.’
Humanists UK has been responsible for forcing the issue of illegal faith schools onto the agenda in recent years, and last week aired a joint exposé with the BBC revealing both widespread abuse within such settings and the failure of successive Governments to close the legal loopholes allowing them to operate.
At one particular unregistered Charedi Jewish school in Essex featured in the piece, footage appeared to show a teacher striking and manhandling a child. The school, originally identified by Humanists UK, has since closed down but maintains that it is simply a homeschool because it provides education for just five pupils and therefore does not meet the legal threshold at which registration is required. Mr Halfon dismissed this, stating that ‘even if they have less than five pupils and are open less than 18 hours [a week – the threshold after which a school is considered as operating full-time] they should be inspected and registered’.
Similar calls for tighter regulation of both unregistered schools and home-education have been made in recent months. Last week, Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman stated that the law was not ‘strong enough’ and repeated calls previously made by Humanists UK for insectors to be given great powers. The Local Government Association has also weighed in, recommending that the introduction of ‘a legal duty on parents to register homeschooled children with their local authority would help councils to monitor how children are being educated, and prevent children from “disappearing” from the oversight of services designed to keep them safe’.
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘Robert Halfon is completely right. When it comes to safeguarding children and defending their right to a proper education, there can be no “grey area” in the law. It is not acceptable that hundreds of illegal schools are able to continue operating entirely free from oversight and regulation, nor that local or national government has no way of checking up on the education of tens of thousands of children. None of this is to detract from the right of parents to educate their children at home, it is simply to acknowledge that the Government also has a duty of care, a duty it is currently failing to fulfil. We are briefing the Education Committee about this and asking for its formal backing for reform.’
For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 324 3078.
Read more about our investigation on unregistered schools with the BBC: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/02/26/joint-bbc-humanists-uk-investigation-abuse-at-illegal-religious-schools/
Read our previous news item ‘Unregistered Charedi school suspended after Humanists UK/BBC investigation reveals incidents of abuse’: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/02/28/unregistered-charedi-school-suspended-after-humanists-uk-bbc-investigation-reveals-incidents-of-abuse/
Read Humanists UK’s briefing on unregistered religious schools: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017-09-15-JH-UNREGISTERED-RELIGIOUS-SCHOOLS.pdf
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.