The head of Ofsted has said that a series of 35 no-notice inspections conducted by the schools’ regulator were “not about political correctness”.
Sir Michael Wilshaw was responding to allegations that Ofsted are inappropriately punishing schools for a lack of multiculturalism.
Since September, controversial new school standards imposing the Government’s view of ‘British values’ have been used to target a number of faith schools.
Sir Michael recently wrote to the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan with a summary of the 35 inspections. According to the letter no-notice inspections will be used where “serious concerns” exist about a school.
More than 20 of the schools have been downgraded, including several faith schools.
In order to comply with the new standards, schools must “actively promote” characteristics contained in the Equality Act 2010, including homosexual and transsexual rights.
The schools’ regulator said that a number of the schools were, “failing to teach respect for other faiths”, although the actual regulations refer to respect for people of different faiths, rather than for the faith itself.
The manner in which the religious ethos of faith schools has been targeted under the new regulations has already caused a reaction in parliament.
In a letter to Nicky Morgan, a group of twelve MPs said it is up to the Department for Education to rethink its imposition of the “far-reaching new requirements”.
Antithetical’ to faith
Sir Edward Leigh MP, one of the signatories of the letter wrote to The Times saying: “The state requiring faith schools to actively promote things that are antithetical to their faith undermines the entire ethos of these schools, as well as striking a powerful and disconcerting blow against the freedom of conscience.”
Last month a small Christian school in Reading was threatened with closure by the schools’ regulator.
Ofsted told Trinity Christian School that it was failing under the new standards because it did not invite people from other faiths to lead assemblies.
A Jewish high school for girls has similarly been downgraded for failing to uphold ‘British values’, as is required by the standards.
Ofsted’s director for schools, Mike Cladingbowl, has warned that the conflict between faith schools and the new regulations may continue.
Earlier this month he said that schools and governors may feel trapped between “the rock of their faith, and the hard place of the law”.
The Christian Institute is in legal correspondence with the Department for Education over the regulations, stating that they are “invasive and unjustified”.