The Government’s attempt to force controversial ‘British values’ on faith schools goes against the principles of a tolerant and democratic society, an atheist commentator has warned.
Writing for online magazine Spiked, sociologist Frank Furedi referred to The Durham Free School and Grindon Hall Christian School, which faced hostile inspections under new ‘British values’ regulations.
Parents and teachers at both schools complained to the schools’ regulator Ofsted after pupils were asked inappropriate questions such as whether they knew anyone ‘trapped in the wrong body’, and if they had learnt ‘how to make a baby’.
The Durham Free School was subsequently closed by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, after she rejected an appeal and removed its funding.
Furedi said: “It is increasingly clear that the UK government’s failing attempt to promote British values has inadvertently turned into a sanctimonious and intolerant campaign against traditionalist religious institutions.”
He added: “According to today’s official guidelines, religions are acceptable as long as their adherents don’t take them too seriously.”
Furedi also said that a “tolerant, democratic society” would understand that the aim of religious schools is to “instil in children their own values”, rather than those of the Department for Education.
“Forcing religious schools to educate children in values that are alien to their faith has little educational merit”, Furedi commented.
“The purpose of such a policy is not educational but political. Demanding that teachers ignore what their conscience dictates sets a dangerous precedent for society”.
He explained that the “right to religious freedom is the cornerstone on which the ideal of tolerance was founded”.
Last month, The Christian Institute accused Ofsted of misleading Parliament over an investigation into complaints from parents at The Durham Free School and Grindon Hall Christian School.
Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw told the Education Select Committee he had “thoroughly” investigated the claims and found them to be false.
However, following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, Ofsted revealed that none of the pupils, parents or staff who had complained were interviewed before or after Sir Michael’s comments to Parliament.
The Christian Institute said the FOI request revealed the inadequacy of Ofsted’s investigation.
Deputy Director Simon Calvert said: “Misleading Parliament by saying that there had been a thorough investigation into the complaints made by the children, parents and school is very serious.
“It is patently clear from this Freedom of Information request that the so-called inquiry was wholly inadequate.
“It was superficial, failed to speak to those making the complaints, or meet the lowest bar for an impartial inquiry.”