The Government is to send Ofsted inspectors into independent faith schools to make sure they are preparing pupils for life in modern Britain.
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, has asked Ofsted to carry out a survey to ensure these schools are meeting regulation standards for the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils.
Mr Balls said that while most independent schools are “exemplary in meeting the standards required of them”, there have been questions raised about the “practice in a small minority”.
The Ofsted survey will involve a selection of schools across different faiths, considering their ethos and values. It will also look at the influences pupils are subject to through the curriculum, extended school activities and through links with external organisations.
Independent schools are required to meet the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2003, which states:
The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school meets the standard if the school promotes principles which –
enable pupils to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence; enable pupils to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the law; encourage pupils to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and understand how they can contribute to community life; provide pupils with a broad general knowledge of public institutions and services in England; and assist pupils to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions.
Mr Balls said: “Some concerns have been raised recently about practice in a small minority of independent faith schools and whether they are effectively preparing pupils for life in wider British society.
“We very much value the contribution faith schools make to education, both in the maintained and independent sectors and welcome the choice they provide for parents.”
He continued: “While I am confident the vast majority of independent faith schools are exemplary in meeting the standards required of them, it is important we work with the sector to achieve consistently high standards.
“I have asked Ofsted to carry out a survey of current practice in meeting the relevant independent school standards as part of their Summer term survey programme. This will identify good practice and areas for improvement to contribute to a more informed debate about the effectiveness of the regulatory framework.”