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Ofsted chief 'should be sacked', says senior MP

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A senior Conservative MP has said that Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, should be removed from office, after he confirmed that Sunday schools will be at risk of state regulation.

Sir Michael Wilshaw last week indicated that government plans to regulate ‘out-of-school’ settings mean that all Sunday schools will be made to register with the authorities and be subject to inspection.

As part of its broader ‘Counter-Extremism Strategy’, the government has proposed that 'out-of-school education settings' that provide "intensive education" for more than six to eight hours in a week will be required to register and undergo regular inspection.

Ministers had insisted that these measures would not target Christian youth activities such as Sunday schools. 

Sunday schools must register

But in a radio interview last week, Sir Michael said:

"The government…wants Sunday schools, and wants Madrassas and after-school clubs to be registered…. We will not be inspecting every one of them – but we will know that they exist."

"If there are concerns…if whistle-blowers do tell us that there’s an issue, then we will go in and inspect," he went on.

Sir Michael agreed with the presenter that, so far, settings that have been shown to put children at risk have been Muslim madrassas and similar settings.

When questioned why Sunday schools must be included as part of the proposals, Sir Michael replied:

"We’ve got to deal with this in an even-handed way".

Listen to Sir Michael Wilshaw confirm Ofsted will inspect Sunday schools.


'Flatly contradicted ministers'

Sir Gerald Howarth, a former defence minister, said that Sir Michael should be removed from office in light of his comments.

"You cannot be even handed about people who present no threat to this country at all and people who present a very real and present threat", he said.

"It will be Sir Michael and his officials who will decide whether to engage in regulation of Sunday schools which is absurd.

"Unless Sir Michael publicly renounces an intention to investigate Sunday schools, the minsters must sack him - he must go.

"We cannot have an Ofsted inspector behaving in this high handed and draconian fashion."

Sir Gerald was one of four prominent signatories of a letter to the Telegraph last week, which warned of the risk the government's plans pose to Christian groups.

In the letter, the MPs highlighted that the content of Christian teaching will be threatened by the new regulations, which class “undesirable teaching” under "prohibited activities"

Christian Concern’s response to the government consultation highlights why this vague definition poses a threat to the teaching of core Christian values. 

'Churches should not co-operate with Ofsted'

Christian MP David Burrowes, another signatory of last week’s letter, has described the plans as an "outrageous and unacceptable threat to religious freedom", calling on churches not to co-operate with Ofsted, should the proposals be pushed through.

Writing for the Telegraph, he said:

"At a meeting on Tuesday with the Education Secretary and Ofsted, I will be demanding an end to this unnecessary plan. If the Government does not back down on plans for universal registration, I will call upon all churches to refuse to accept Ofsted's registration and inspection regime. No one would stand in the way of a targeted and intelligence led approach to protecting children, but Ofsted's plans smack of the heavy hand of an authoritarian state that has no place in Britain and I hope no place in Government.

"It is an outrageous and unacceptable threat to religious freedom. It is an attack on the very British values of tolerance, freedom and respect for others which Ofsted and the Government seek to promote."

'Religious police'

Mr Burrowes, who runs a summer youth camp, said:

"Make no mistake, that if the registration and inspection regime comes into effect I will not let inspectors into my youth camp and I expect thousands [of] others to join me in refusing to accept Ofsted's new role as religious police."

Read the full interview.

A spokesman for Ofsted emphasised that the body would only act according to legislation.

"The government's consultation on plans for the registration and inspection of out-of-school settings ended last week. Ofsted will act according to whatever criteria are set down by Parliament once any legislation that follows this consultation exercise is enacted," he said. 

Parliamentary debate: Take action

Up to 20 Tory MPs will meet with Sir Michael Wilshaw and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan this week to discuss the concerns surrounding the proposals.

MPs will also hold a parliamentary debate on the plans on Wednesday, at 9.30am in Westminster Hall.

If you haven’t done so already, please write to your MP, asking them to attend the debate and speak on behalf of Christian freedom.

Read Christian Concern’s response to the consultation.

Chief Executive of Christian Concern Andrea Williams comments:

"Thank you for taking action. Please pray that these plans will be defeated and that we would remain free to ground our children in the Word of God"

Related News:
Ofsted chief: Sunday schools must register and be subject to inspection 
Sunday schools could be banned for teaching biblical view of marriage, say MPs

Related Coverage:
Ministers told to sack Ofsted chief over threat to raid Sunday schools in extremism crackdown (Telegraph)