Rethink new ‘British values’ school rules, say MPs
Thu, 20 Nov 2014
New education regulations which require schools to ‘actively promote’ rights under the Equality Act should be scrapped, MPs have told the Education Secretary.
The rules have already led to one Christian school being reprimanded by education watchdog Ofsted for not promoting other faiths.
In a letter to Nicky Morgan, the MPs say it is up to the Department for Education to rethink its imposition of the “far-reaching new requirements”.
Twelve MPs, including Sir Edward Leigh and Stewart Jackson, comment: “This shift in policy is distracting Ofsted from its function of ensuring high quality education.
“Instead, it requires them to police the application of the current, highly politicized, interpretation of equality.”
The changes also go against Conservative policy designed to remove schools from “state-enforced orthodoxy”, the MPs say.
And they “conflict with carefully crafted provisions in education law that protect the ability of faith schools to operate according to their religious ethos”.
The letter notes that the changes have been described as possibly unlawful by John Bowers QC, and are to be challenged in the courts by The Christian Institute.
They warn that the changes “alter the definition of ‘British values’” and “inevitably forces Ofsted inspectors” to produce controversial rulings.
“We urge you to suspend implementation of the changes in order to conduct an urgent review.
“That review should carefully examine the damage caused by the implementation of the new approach.
“Judging from cases that have already been reported in the newspapers, the entirely predictable consequences of making these changes are already taking place”, they say.
The MPs give examples of a Roman Catholic school, which was temporarily downgraded over concerns about ‘radicalisation’, and Trinity Christian School in Reading.
Trinity, a small independent school, was rated “excellent” for its provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in November last year.
However, following an inspection soon after the new regulations came into force, it was deemed not to be meeting the new requirements.
The MPs comment: “The school’s policy has not changed. The law has.”
They add that Nicky Morgan should take advantage of the fact that the regulations “are still within the 40-day period in which they can be annulled”.
The MPs conclude: “We also wish to seek a meeting with you to discuss an alternative approach to these sensitive issues.”
The twelve MPs are Edward Leigh, Stewart Jackson, Philip Davies, David Amess, Jeremy Lefroy, Henry Smith, Roger Gale, Andrew Turner, David Nuttall, Peter Bone, Martin Vickers and Andrew Rosindell.