The Church of England has criticised recent Government policies which require Ofsted to police ‘British values’ and enforce anti-terrorism measures in schools.
Nigel Genders, the C of E’s Chief Education Officer, warned that the regulator risks being turned into a “blunt instrument whose reports risk undermining all the fantastic work a school is doing to educationally transform its community”.
Genders was speaking after anti-radicalisation measures for schools were set out in the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill.
He added: “Whilst Ofsted works out how it measures ‘British values’ and schools wonder how they might be downgraded for failing to promote them, asking Ofsted to become a schoolroom security service is a step too far.”
Genders argued, “we need to recognise that what we ask of Ofsted today is very different to the role it was invented for”.
He highlighted comments made recently by Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector of Schools, about the performance of inspectors.
Genders wrote: “At the same time that Ofsted rightly questions the quality of its own inspectors a number of schools have recently been threatened with or placed into Special Measures due to a range of concerns loosely grouped under the ‘British Values’ umbrella”.
He described ‘British values’ as “a concept which has not been thought through in sufficient detail or depth to deal with the complexities of our society or school system”.
According to Genders: “The experience for schools being marked down for failures to promote British values’ is being subject to a catch-all phrase without the necessary clarity as to how this fits properly into their duties to teach and nurture their pupils.”
He added, “Ofsted is increasingly being required to make nuanced judgements about aspects of school life where there are few, if any, guidelines”.
Last month the Church of England branded the new standards, which require schools to actively promote ‘British values’, as dangerous and divisive.
Responding to a Government consultation the denomination warned of the danger of regulating under such loose terms, describing the standards as a “negative” approach.