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Ofsted report criticises faith schools

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Ofsted released their annual report this week, which made a point of criticising faith schools. Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, also criticised faith schools in a speech at the launch of the report. Tim Dieppe points out that Christian schools are not to blame and Ofsted need to recognise that the worst examples they cite are from Islamic schools. In the name of promoting tolerance, Ofsted is being extremely intolerant of schools that aren’t happy to promote homosexuality and gender reassignment.

Yesterday, Ofsted released their annual report which drew headlines for its criticism of faith schools. The key paragraph containing the criticism is as follows:

“Within the independent school sector, the proportion of schools judged to be less than good has increased again this year, from 28% to 32%. A number were faith schools, either Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, which tended to be highly conservative. In some of the schools found to be inadequate, the premises were unsafe, even squalid. The most basic checks, such as whether staff were suitable to work with children, were not in place. Perhaps more significantly, in a handful of schools inspectors found instances of sexist and sectarian literature.” (p15)


Christian schools not to blame

Ofsted’s own statistics show that amongst independent schools, the portion of Christian schools judged to be less than good is 33% which is not statistically different from the figure of 32% for all schools (Figure 10, p45). Of Jewish schools, 54% were less than good, and of Muslim schools the portion was 58%. It is unfair, then, to lump all faith schools together and blame them for a rise in the portion judged less than good.

Figure 10

The report singles out “a handful of schools” where “sexist and sectarian literature” was found. This is known to have been found in Islamic schools, but not in either Jewish or Christian schools. Ofsted should be clear that it is Islamic schools where these problems lie, and not ‘faith schools’ in general.


The focus on British values

Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman gave a speech at the launch of the in which she said:

 “In recent years, Ofsted has found schools that are deliberately resisting both British values and the requirements of equalities law:

  • we have found texts that encourage domestic violence and the subjugation of women
  • we have found schools in which there is a flat refusal to acknowledge the existence of people who are different, so for example lesbian, gay and bisexual people
  • we also find well-meaning school leaders and governors who naively turn to religious institutions of a particularly conservative bent for advice about religious practice, not realising when this advice does not reflect mainstream thinking
  • and of course, there are the so-called schools that operate off the radar entirely, as illegal unregistered schools; often deliberately, to bypass legal requirements"

Once again, these texts were found in Islamic schools, and Ofsted should make that clear.


Intolerance by Ofsted

I would be surprised if any schools refused to “acknowledge the existence of people who are different.” Instead, Ofsted has been pushing promotion of homosexuality and gender reassignment, including in primary schools. Earlier this year, Vishnitz Girls School, an orthodox Jewish school, was presented with an ultimatum by Ofsted, teach your children about homosexuality and gender reassignment, or we will close you down. This is in spite of the fact that the school only caters for girls aged three to ten, and that this is the sole issue why it has been graded a failing school.

Tolerance is meant to be one of the British values that these schools are judged to be failing on. It is quite ironic how intolerant Ofsted can be, though, in promoting their agenda.


Lack of differentiation

Spielman continued:

“This is emphatically not a criticism of faith schools. The vast majority of faith schools we inspect provide a good education. In very many cases, we find exemplary teaching of British values in faith schools.”

The problem is that the report did criticise faith schools, and failed to differentiate between different faiths and different faith schools.

Spielman further said:

“When I see books in schools entitled ‘Women who deserve to go to hell’, children being educated in dank squalid conditions, children being taught solely religious texts at the expense of learning basic English and mathematics, I cannot let it be ignored.”

These are indeed serious problems, and Ofsted should be tackling them. Nevertheless, by refusing to state that such texts and practices are only occurring in Islamic schools, they are shying away from really tacking it.


Faith schools in general are not the problem

Christian schools are delivering high quality education to large numbers of pupils across the country, often in challenging contexts. Ofsted should not be lumping all faith schools together. There are serious problems in some Islamic schools and these should be dealt with. Faith schools, in general, are not the problem.



Ofsted report:

Amanda Spielman’s speech:

Christian Concern:  Ofsted exposes extremism in Islamic schools:

Christian Concern: Ofsted has gone too far, say Christian schools: