It’s good news as Govt finally confirms Sunday schools won’t be subjected to state registration

COMMENT

By Ciarán Kelly, Deputy Director (Staff and Communications)

In 2015, in the name of counter-extremism, the Government consulted on an extraordinarily vague and dangerous plan for Ofsted to inspect church youth work.

Any place that provided instruction to under-19s for more than six hours in any week would have been covered – a threshold that would have hit plenty of churches. The scheme specifically included summer holiday activities, so holiday Bible clubs, beach missions and summer camps were also in the firing line.

WATCH: The CI campaigned against Ofsted inspections of churches

WATCH: Don’t close my Sunday School!
The CI campaigned against Ofsted inspections of churches

Thankfully, the alarm expressed by Christians and others saw off the plans. They were shown to be ill-conceived and unworkable. It was a great victory for the thousands of Christians who mobilised against the scheme by responding to the consultation and contacting their MPs.

After the issue was kicked into the long grass, the Government finally published its report on the consultation in 2018. It said it had “decided not to pursue the model proposed”, and would look at alternative approaches.

Part of that became a 2020 consultation on registering independent educational institutions. It focused on settings that prevented the children in attendance receiving an education elsewhere – a very different threshold to the 2015 plans. But there was still potential for the out-of-school settings proposals to be revisited. So we responded, urging the Government to steer clear of church activity, and for activities confined to holiday periods to be exempt.

The Government has now published its response to the 2020 consultation. This time the proposals to be implemented have a precise focus: settings that “provide all, or a majority of, a child’s education for at least some of the time during usual school hours (to be considered as Monday-Friday 8am to 4pm)”. In addition, settings such as holiday clubs will be explicitly outside the regime.

Yes, we must keep a careful eye on how this is taken forward, but we can be thankful that the Government now seems to have arrived at a sensible proposal that leaves churches well alone.