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Ofsted chief: Sunday schools must register and be subject to inspection

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Sunday schools will be made subject to registration and inspection, under government plans to regulate 'out-of-school' settings, Ofsted’s chief inspector has confirmed.

The government proposes that 'Out-of-school education settings' that provide "intensive education" for over six to eight hours in a week will be required to register and undergo regular inspection. 

Sunday schools required to register

Now Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has confirmed that some Sunday schools and other Christian youth activities will indeed be affected by the measures.

Speaking on LBC radio today, he said that Sunday schools will need to register.

"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," he said.

According to the consultation, any registered setting will be subject to risk-based inspection.

Sir Michael went on:

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

Listen to the whole interview here

Read the transcript here

Take action

Please take action by contacting Ofsted and Michael Wilshaw.

Please also write to your MP about the threat this will pose to Christian groups. In doing so, please also urge them to attend a debate on 'out-of-school education' settings in Westminster Hall, on Wednesday (20 January) at 9:30am.

The debate will provide a crucial opportunity to engage the government publicly on the proposals. This is also an opportunity to raise the issue among MPs, most of whom are not aware of the dangers posed by the proposed legislation.

Read Christian Concern’s response to the consultation here.

'We’ve got to do this in an even-handed way'

The radio presenter agreed that, so far, settings that have been shown to put children at risk have been Muslim Madrassas and similar settings.

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

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

He concluded:

"The great majority of Sunday schools and church won't be affected by this. But we need to know if a Sunday school is being run, is it registered? Is it being run properly by people that have been through proper safeguarding checks?...

"We will only go in when we feel there is a need to do so."

'Undesirable teaching'

The consultation states that “undesirable teaching” is a “prohibited” activity.

Such a vague definition puts Christian teaching at risk.

This week, prominent Conservative MPs, including Fiona Bruce and David Burrowes, wrote to the Telegraph, highlighting this risk:

"This would be an intolerable but very real possibility given the clear desire of the Department for Education to investigate what it calls 'prohibitive activities', such as 'undesirable teaching…which undermines or is incompatible with fundamental British values'. This could challenge established Christian teaching.

"Threats to British values originate overwhelmingly from certain strains of Islam. It is at least disproportionate, if not absurd, to impose intrusive burdens on all other religious groups under the pretence that attempts at radicalisation could be discovered in any organisation."

Core gospel truths

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said:

"What Sir Wilshaw is suggesting has serious implications on the freedom of our Christian groups to teach core gospel truths. We have already seen that the biblical view of marriage and sexuality could be classed as 'homophobic teaching'. A host of other Christian values taught to our children could be considered 'undesirable' under the loose definitions proposed by the government."

She went on:

"Thank you for taking action. Please pray that more people will recognise the danger of these plans and that they will be defeated".

Related News:
Sunday schools could be banned for teaching biblical view of marriage, say MPs 
Homosexuality comments could be sign of extremism, says Education Secretary

Related Coverage:
Ofsted chief: Sunday schools could be inspected under counter-extremism measures (Christian Today)