‘Absurd’ Sunday School inspections show religion seen as ‘a problem’ by Govt

Proposals for Ofsted to inspect Sunday Schools illustrate that Govt ministers see religious faith as “a problem”, a former Cabinet minister has said.

Labour MP Stephen Timms, a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, made the comments while speaking at the release of a new report about faith-based charities.

The Government announced in October that it will push ahead with plans to give Ofsted the power to investigate church youth work.

‘Absurd’

This is absurd.
Labour MP Stephen Timms

Timms expressed concern that Government ministers “see religious faith as essentially a problem.”

“I think that is particularly well illustrated by the announcement a few months ago they want to send Ofsted inspectors into Sunday schools to check up on what is going on.”

He went on to say that this is “presumably because they think there might be some bad things going on and people might be incited to do things they ought not to”, adding, “this is absurd.”

Ofsted

Ministers announced in October that they will “set out next steps” for proposals to register and inspect all out-of-school settings.

The Government wants to inspect any out-of-school setting in England that provides instruction to children for more than 6 to 8 hours in any week.

The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart called the out-of-schools settings plans an “unprecedented attack” on religious freedom.

In a letter to then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan last year, Mr Hart wrote: “The idea of having an Ofsted inspector sitting in on your church youth group or Sunday school to see if you are an extremist is, I have to say, highly offensive.”

‘Suspicion’

Timms’ comments come after the Archbishop of Canterbury accused the Government of having a seriously flawed view of extremism that places Christians alongside extreme Muslim groups.

Earlier this month, Justin Welby criticised ministers and civil servants for “religious illiteracy”, and said many assume conservative Christian believers are “a bit bonkers”.

The Labour MP was speaking at the launch of a new report, called ‘What a difference a faith makes’. It found that some people are “unappreciative” and “even actively suspicious” of faith-based charities because of concerns about ‘proselytising’.

However, the report also “identified distinctive attributes” of faith-based charities, including perseverance and resilience that can make them “more effective”.

Related Resources