The school inspectorate, Ofsted, recently revealed that there are around 6000 children at potential risk in illegal schools in England. Many of these schools expose their pupils to the possibility of physical harm as the result of appalling conditions and a total lack of safeguarding. However, illegal schools with a religious character are particularly pernicious, with children generally provided with an extremely narrow, faith-based curriculum and some forced to study nothing but religious texts for up to fourteen hours per day. There is also evidence of illegal schools exposing children to homophobic, misogynistic, and extremist literature.
This event will explore the way high-control religious groups use illegal schools and other forms of teaching that take place outside the mainstream system (such as home and supplementary education) to prevent pupils from leaving their faith communities. It will also explore the way in which the providers of illegal schools use loopholes in the law relating to home education to continue operating and evade prosecution.
Dr Ruth Wareham is the Education Campaigns Manager at Humanists UK.
Aliyah Saleem was born into a Pakistani Sunni family and was educated at an Islamic girls' private boarding school in Nottingham, before studying Islamic theology in Pakistan. In 2015 she co-founded Faith to Faithless to raise awareness of apostasy which became a programme of the national charity Humanists UK. Aliyah is an advocate for secular education and in 2018 published her first book, ‘Leaving Faith Behind’.
Theo Howarth was born into a Jehovah’s Witness family and embraced the belief that he was one of God’s chosen people. He became an active preacher and witnessed members of his congregation suffer severe punishments, including public humiliation, social expulsion and enforced alienation from family and friends. He then suffered punishments and disownment that led to a mental health crisis and suicide attempt. Theo has since rebuilt his life and works for the Department of Health and Social Care.
Additional panellists TBC.
Teddy Prout is an ex-evangelical Christian living in London. 'Born again' at 16 years old he struggled with the theological condemnation of being gay while identifying as a gay Christian. Teddy was repeatedly offered gay conversion therapy throughout his time in the church. He left the religion in his mid-30s. Today, Teddy is the Director for Community Services at Humanists UK and oversees the Faith to Faithless programme.
Following the discussion, there will be an opportunity for Q&A with the panel. We hope you'll join us for what promises to be an informative and thought-provoking evening.
Thanks to our supporters this is a free event.
25 Red Lion Square
London, WC1R 4RL