The Department for Education has launched an open consultation to write a draft code of practise on safeguarding in out-of-school settings, Premier Christian Radio reports.
This will affect various groups like the Scouts, but it will also include any religious settings which offer education in their own faith, such as Sunday schools.
The Department for Education is asking for contributions of opinion to try to provide a sector-wide safeguarding framework for all out-of-school settings, saying, ‘While the majority do behave in a safe environment, there are some settings which do not.’
The department said, ‘We are inviting the views of out-of-school settings providers, staff and volunteers working in out-of-school settings, local authorities, parents, accreditation organisations, young people, schools, charities, and other interested groups and individuals on a draft voluntary safeguarding code of practice for out-of-school settings, and accompanying draft guidance for parents.
‘Following the closure of the consultation, we intend to publish the finalised version of the code in due course. The providers’ code would be a voluntary document.
‘It would be intended as a voluntary resource, setting out best practice to help providers of out-of-school education settings understand how they can ensure they are delivering education and activities in a safe environment.’
The consultation period will end on 24 February and the department says it will publish the results shortly after.
Back in 2017 the government faced a barrage of criticism for floating the idea of having Ofsted inspect Sunday schools as way of tackling ‘religious extremism’.
But the government received a whopping 18,000 responses to that consultation and said it needed to ‘tread carefully because many of these organisations are small, open for only a few hours a week and staffed by volunteers.’ The government eventually shelved the plans.
This new consultation from the Department of Education is not the same as the plans for Ofsted inspections. It is for a ‘voluntary’ code of practice regarding safeguarding.
However, many will feel that churches need to remain vigilant about creeping regulation of religious instruction in an era when secular authorities have a very subjective definition of ‘extremism.’