The Department for Education’s controversial ‘British values’ rules have received strong criticism in Parliament.
During a House of Commons backbench debate, Sir Edward Leigh MP said that faith schools are “under attack from the forces of intolerance”.
He highlighted the unfair treatment of a number of schools by Ofsted since the new standards came in last year.
Sir Edward argued that Ofsted “appears to be guilty of trying to enforce a kind of state-imposed orthodoxy on certain moral and religious questions”.
Sir David Amess MP said the “vague school standards allow Ofsted to treat social conservatives as extremists”.
Fiona Bruce MP also spoke out, posing the question, “what exactly are British values?” She said the Department for Education’s consultation on British values rules was “hurried” and “inadequate”.
Mrs Bruce called on the Government to “ensure that teachers’ ability to work according to their religious ethos is protected”.
Referring to Ofsted inspections at several faith schools in recent months, Sir Edward Leigh said: “This has provoked huge controversy and has rarely been out of the news.”
The MP raised the case of several schools including Trinity Christian School in Reading, Grindon Hall Christian School in Sunderland and The Durham Free School.
Grindon Hall was told that its performance is inadequate in a report by Ofsted, a draft version of which also included a paragraph attacking the school’s Christian ethos.
But Sir Edward said that faith schools like Grindon Hall should “hold their heads up high” and stand by their Christian values.
He encouraged them not to “kowtow to the latest fashion” but “stand by the principles that have made them such a success: love for God and neighbour, pursuit of truth, high aspiration and discipline”.
Sir Edward Leigh concluded: “The truth is that the real basis of actual British values are Christian values. It is the influence of Christianity that made us one of the most tolerant and successful nations on earth, not this artificial nonsense – a knee-jerk reaction – dreamed up by officials.”
According to the MP, ‘British values’ are a “classic bureaucratic response to a problem and it is damaging Christian schools”.
The latest effect of the rules have been witnessed at a North East school, which is being closed by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan after Ofsted claimed to have found evidence of homophobia and racism.
The Durham Free School is due to close after it decided not to mount a legal challenge against the Department for Education.