Consultation launched on inspection plans for unregistered religious schools

Institutions that educate children for more than six hours a week would face Ofsted inspections and could be shut down if they are found to be flouting safeguarding laws, a new consultation document has proposed today.

Prime minister David Cameron announced last month that out-of-school institutions teaching intolerance would be “shut down”, highlighting madrassas, Sunday schools and Yeshivas as examples.

The Department for Education has revealed further details about how the inspections could work in a consultation document published today.

Views are sought on plans for Ofsted to inspect any institutions providing “intensive tuition, training or instruction” to youngsters.

The definition of “intensive” is proposed as providing more than six to eight hours of education per week.

It says key features of the system would include a requirement to register settings, power for a body to inspect that children are properly safeguarded and power to impose sanctions – including barring staff from working with children and closing down providers.

The registration scheme would “provide transparency and visibility” and be publically available, but sufficiently “light touch” so it did not put too much burden on organisations, many said to be run by volunteers.

Providers deemed below the described “intensive” threshold would not have to register, but could do so voluntarily.

Institutions providing alternative provision exclusively for children referred from local authorities or schools would be exempt.

Mr Cameron had previously stated “in some madrassas we’ve got children being taught that they shouldn’t mix with people of other religions, being beaten, swallowing conspiracy theories about Jewish people.”

He said children should have their minds opened, their horizons broadened, not “having their heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”.

There are reportedly around 250,000 children attending up to 5,000 religious supplementary schools in England, of which up to 2,000 are madrassas.

Mr Cameron’s singling out of madrassas led to the Muslim Council of Britain to demand he substantiate the “serious allegations”.

The consultation document states: “Wherever children access learning, particularly where they spend a lot of time in an out-of-school setting, we want to be confident that they are safe and are being taught in a way which prepares them for life in modern Britain and to actively contribute to society.

“We want to be sure that teaching is compatible with, and does not undermine, fundamental British values.”

The document made clear the plans are “not about regulating the education that parents provide their children in their homes”.

“The government continues to respect the rights of parents to home educate their children,” it added.

For more details of the consultation, which runs until January 11, visit here.

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