Ofsted church youth work plans in confusion

The head of Ofsted has said that Sunday schools will be affected by plans to regulate non-school settings, which directly contradicts recent Government statements.

During an LBC radio phone-in, a listener asked Sir Michael Wilshaw if he was happy that Ofsted would be turned into “thought police”.

Sir Michael responded that the Government is concerned about the radicalisation of children in unregistered schools, and therefore it wants Sunday schools, madrassas and after-school clubs to be registered.

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“That won’t take a lot of time and we will not be inspecting every one of them but we will know that they exist. And if there are concerns, if whistle-blowers do tell us there’s an issue, then we will go in and inspect”, he said.

When challenged by presenter Nick Ferrari on why Sunday schools need to be “lumped into one potential problem area”, Sir Michael said: “We’ve got to deal with this in an even-handed way”.

… if church groups or religious groups want to run out-of-school classes then they need to register

Sir Michael Wilshaw

He added, “all we’re saying is that 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”.


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

Mrs Morgan’s letter said: “We are not proposing to regulate institutions teaching children for a short period every week, such as Sunday schools or the Scouts.

“Nor will the proposed system apply to one off residential activities, such as a week long Summer camp.”

Sunday schools

In the House of Lords, Education Minister Lord Nash echoed Mrs Morgan’s position when responding to a question on whether Sunday schools or communion classes would be caught by the plans.

“We do not propose to regulate institutions such as Sunday schools and one-off residential settings which teach children for a short period every week.

“We are looking specifically at places where children receive intensive education, which we think will be defined as more than six to eight hours a week”, he said.

Detrimental effect

The Government’s consultation on the plans closed on Monday.

The proposals involve introducing a nationwide registration scheme for any out-of-school setting providing instruction to under 19-year-olds for more than six hours in any week.

Four Conservative MPs criticised the plans in a letter to The Daily Telegraph this week.

Sir Gerald Howarth, Fiona Bruce, David Burrowes and Gary Streeter said the plans could have a “seriously detrimental effect” on the freedom of religious organisations.

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