Ofsted chief backs away from Sunday school comments

Ofsted does not want to inspect Sunday schools, but will do it if the Government asks, the head of the education watchdog has told MPs.

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A visibly uneasy Sir Michael Wilshaw told the Education Select Committee yesterday that he ‘no longer stood by’ his previous comment that Sunday schools should be registered and inspected.

He also sidestepped a question about how Ofsted could train inspectors to have a detailed understanding of every religion.


The Government has consulted on giving Ofsted legal power to investigate any setting in England that provides instruction to children for more than six to eight hours in any week.

The consultation closed in January, but the Government has not yet responded.

Appearing before MPs on the Education Select Committee on Thursday, Sir Michael said about Ofsted: “We inspect enough. We don’t want to inspect more.”


He was questioned in detail by Michelle Donelan, the MP for Chippenham, about whether he stood by comments he made in January.

Speaking on LBC radio at the beginning of the year, he gave his support for registering and inspecting Sunday schools.

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This week, appearing embarrassed by the situation, the Ofsted chief said: “I don’t stand by that comment”, continuing: “It was something I said on a radio programme.”

Time and money

Sir Michael said it was up to the Government to decide on whether inspections were necessary, stating: “We will do what the Government wants us to do.”

Donelan pressed the Ofsted leader on the issue, saying that registering and inspecting settings such as Sunday schools would take a huge amount of time and money.

“You would have to be training inspectors to have a detailed understanding of each religion”, she explained.


In January, Sir Michael said “if church groups or religious groups want to run out-of-school classes then they need to register so that the country and the Department of Education know they exist and that they’re being run properly”.

However, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan contradicted Sir Michael’s comments in a letter received by The Christian Institute.

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