Plans for Ofsted to regulate out-of-school settings could burden churches, discourage volunteers and cause unnecessary distress to children, a Conservative MP has warned.
Writing on the Christian Today website, MP Fiona Bruce urged people to respond to a consultation on proposals to introduce 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.
She warned that the plans could result in “officials sitting in to ensure Mums and Tots aren’t being radicalised by singing Bible songs”.
“Sound ridiculous? It does, but the potential situation is in fact no joke for many initiatives run by churches, charities, and communities across the country”, Mrs Bruce explained.
She gave examples of a number of scenarios that would be caught by the proposals.
“What will happen to the beach mission claiming that Jesus is the only ‘way, the truth and the life; no-one comes to the Father except through Him’?
Real extremists are unlikely to ‘register the settings they use to radicalise young people’Fiona Bruce MP
“What will happen to the teens’ group teaching creationism or Christian sexual ethics?
“And what about the Christian volunteer in a local community project, who is asked by an inspector their views on a controversial issue?” Mrs Bruce said.
She said she recognised the need for the Government to deal with “poisonous ideologies” that fuel terror, and said vulnerable young people need to be shown that “there is nothing but death and lies in these beliefs”.
But she said that the Government proposal “to counter extremist ideology in the UK could actually threaten the very way of life it is seeking to protect”.
And Mrs Bruce pointed out that it is “unclear how this policy would have any positive effects on national security” because real extremists are unlikely to “register the settings they use to radicalise young people”.
The plans could prove “catastrophic” for the voluntary sector, Mrs Bruce warned, because there may be repercussions on the careers of professionals who volunteer for groups that receive a banning order.
She said that potentially “a whole new layer of bureaucracy will develop involving countless additional officials to monitor groups which are not only completely harmless, but which are actually beneficial to local communities and British society”.
“Is this really a sensible use of public resources – and is it really what the Government intends?” she asked.
The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart wrote to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to raised concerns about the Government’s plans.
He said the proposals represent an “unprecedented attack on religious freedom”.
The Government’s consultation closes on 11 January 2016.