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40% of independent faith schools fail to meet Ofsted standards with Steiner schools also failing badly

Independent faith schools are struggling to meet Ofsted standards with 40% receiving ratings of ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’, according to new Ofsted findings.

In its latest report, the schools watchdog Ofsted said independent faith schools ‘have considerably weaker inspection outcomes’ than those without a religious character. Ofsted found 40% of non-association independent faith schools – schools that are not members of an association affiliated to the Independent Schools Council and are therefore inspected by Ofsted rather than the Independent Schools Inspectorate –  received a grade of ‘inadequate’ (20%) or ‘requires improvement’ (20%) at their last inspection. This compares to just 20% for schools without a religious character (13% ‘requires improvement’ and 7% ‘inadequate’).

The data, which was published in Ofsted’s Annual Report earlier this week, shows that inspection outcomes vary between faith groups, with 61% of Jewish schools judged to be inadequate or in need of improvement. For Muslim schools, the figure was 39% and for Christian schools 24%. Nearly half of independent Jewish schools (47%) failed to meet all of the Independent School Standards (ISS), which include judgements on the quality of education, spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development (SMSC) of pupils, and welfare and health and safety of pupils. 30% of independent Muslim schools also failed to meet the ISS.

Humanists UK, which has long campaigned for better regulation of independent faith schools, has expressed alarm at the figures. Recent Ofsted inspections of independent Jewish and Muslim schools have uncovered evidence of inadequate safeguarding, the use of physical punishment by teachers – including pinching, smacking and slapping – and use of texts promoting sexist and homophobic attitudes. Ofsted has also raised concerns about compliance with the Equality Act, particularly with respect to LGBT inclusivity, and there is additional evidence of some schools trying to use the parental right to withdraw from sex education to avoid having to teach the subject at all.

Ofsted’s Annual Report also highlights the extent to which Steiner schools have failed inspections.  Humanists UK has longstanding concerns about these schools, which have been found to have problems with bullying and safeguarding, as well as teaching pseudoscience (including scepticism about evolution and vaccinations). Just 5 of the 22 independent Steiner schools inspected by Ofsted since the body took over responsibility for inspecting these schools from the, now defunct, School Inspection Service received a good rating. 10 were rated ‘inadequate’, and the rest as ‘requires improvement’. Failures included ineffective safeguarding and poor leadership and management, as well as failure to meet the ISS.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham said: ‘It is extremely concerning that independent faith schools are failing to comply with even basic standards of ensuring a good education for children. Children attending these schools have been exposed to sexist and homophobic literature, provided with narrow, ineffective curricula, and poor safeguarding and have even been subject to physical punishment. In Steiner schools, the picture is particularly worrying, with reports of poor quality teaching, bullying, and insufficient support for children with special educational needs or disabilities.

‘While it is good to know that Ofsted is picking up on these issues, progress simply isn’t fast enough. Once serious issues in the independent sector have been detected, Ofsted should be permitted to act swiftly to ensure that the necessary changes are made or get these failing schools shut down once and for all.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read our most recent article on Ofsted’s calls to take stronger action on Steiner schools

Read our previous article on inadequate private faith schools

Read more about our work on private faith schools

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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