English MPs have strongly criticised the government’s plans to inspect non-school education settings, during debates in Westminster.
Words such as ‘unworkable’, ‘illegal’, ‘unlawful’ and ‘hopelessly broad’ were used, with many claiming that Ofsted’s involvement in out-of-school-hours church clubs would be detrimental to parental rights to teach their children about their cultural and religious heritage.
More than 10,000 responses were sent into the consultation before the January deadline, with many claiming the plans to register and inspect youth groups and clubs could cause significant problems for traditional church groups.
The government claims that it has ‘no intention to regulate religion or interfere in parents’ right to teach children about their faith and heritage’. However, CARE has warned that unless the government now changes its policy, in the light of the consultation responses, then churches providing six or more hours of youth work could face the possibility of these activities being inspected. Nola Leach, chief executive for CARE, branded the plans ‘more Big Brother than Big Society’.
In a blog post, Alun Ebenezer, head master of Fulham Boys School, wrote: ‘Once again, faith, education, indoctrination, extremism and radicalisation are in the news and, as the headmaster of a school built on Christian principles, I relish such debate.
‘The Prime Minister has warned that “teaching intolerance” has to be stopped and the DfE has said it makes “no apology” for wanting to ensure children are properly protected.
‘I agree with the view that, if what we are teaching children cannot be “inspected”, then we shouldn’t be teaching it — be it in schools, madrassas, church camps or holiday Bible clubs.
‘However, I also agree that the state cannot encroach on the “legitimate right of faith providers to teach their children faith”. It would cut across the very purpose of education to dictate what people should believe’.
The front-page story in Evangelical Times, February 2016, warned about the effect Ofsted inspections might have on churches.