The Department for Education (DfE) has accepted some key arguments from The Christian Institute in its guidance documents relating to controversial regulations for schools.
The new guidance, issued to every school in England, includes important safeguards regarding the Government’s definition of ‘British values’.
The move comes after the threat of a judicial review by the Institute and a letter writing campaign by supporters.
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, welcomed the news.
He said: “These guidelines, issued to every school in England, make clear that Department for Education regulations require schools to promote respect for people, as opposed to respect for their beliefs.”
He described this as an “important distinction” in light of the way that school inspectors have been implementing the new regulations.
Crucially, the guidance also states that schools are not required to “promote alternative lifestyles or same sex marriage”.
The new standards, which require all schools to actively promote ‘British values’, were introduced in September.
Since they came into force, a number of faith schools have been targeted and downgraded by schools’ regulator Ofsted.
Mr Calvert said, “it is clear that Ofsted, which is enforcing the rules, is not following the guidance in many cases”.
As a result, he continued, The Christian Institute is “actively seeking to bring a test case against Ofsted where it has acted outside its remit, without proper regard for religious freedom”.
As well as being criticised for pushing the Government’s definition of ‘British values’, the standards have also come under fire for requiring faith schools to promote the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010.
This includes sexual orientation and transsexual rights which contravene the religious ethos of many schools.
The safeguards now included within the guidance make clear that the regulations do not make a school’s curriculum subject to the Equality Act.