Institute to Ofsted: Don’t use liberalism as a cover for secularism

Ofsted must not take the Chief Inspector’s call for “muscular liberalism” as an opportunity to enforce aggressive secularism, The Christian Institute has warned.

Speaking to a Church of England education leadership conference, Amanda Spielman referred to The Christian Institute as she warned against “conservative voices” in religion.

But Colin Hart, the Institute’s Director, highlighted that liberalism means the freedom to disagree and said that there was a religious literacy problem at Ofsted.

‘Right values’

Spielman’s comments in London this morning were reported on the front page of The Times.

She said young people need school leaders to “instil deep knowledge and the right values” before warning that some schools “actively pervert the purpose of education”.

the tradition of British liberalism is about the freedom to disagree

Colin Hart

She stated that freedom of belief “in the private sphere is paramount” but that at school it was Ofsted’s task to “tackle those who actively undermine fundamental British values or equalities law”.

‘Muscular liberalism’

Spielman then called for education heads to work to promote a “muscular liberalism”.

“That sort of liberalism holds no truck for ideologies that want to close minds or narrow opportunity.”

“It means not assuming that the most conservative voices in a particular faith speak for everyone – imagine if people thought the Christian Institute was the sole voice of Anglicanism.”

Freedom to disagree

Colin Hart responded to the Ofsted chief’s comments with caution: “My concern is that some Ofsted inspectors will misinterpret the Chief Inspector’s call for ‘muscular liberalism’ as a call for inspectors to enforce more secularism.

“Muscular liberalism must not mean aggressive secularism.”

He said he hoped Spielman will be able to promote “the Great British tradition of liberalism” which has at its heart “the freedom to disagree”.

“And The Christian Institute has disagreed with the way in which some Ofsted inspectors have gone about their work.


“For example demanding that Vishnitz – an Orthodox Jewish School – should be promoting transgender rights to five-year-olds.

“Anyone reading that inspection report will see how inspectors can be unhelpfully ‘muscular’.

“There have also been cases of unprofessional conduct where inspectors have asked teachers their personal views on same-sex marriage.

Religious literacy

“Clearly there is a problem of religious literacy.

“Just because you have socially conservative views doesn’t mean you’ve got a foot on the first step of an escalator leading to violent extremism.

“Social liberalism is a particular viewpoint, whereas the tradition of British liberalism is about the freedom to disagree.

“Ofsted inspectors need to know the difference.”

Evangelical Alliance and Anglican Mainstream also criticised the Chief Inspector’s remarks