Ofsted tries again to get out-of-school powers

Schools inspector Ofsted is seeking to revive controversial plans which could affect church youth groups.

The plans were shelved last year after widespread criticism, but Ofsted now claims it needs the powers to tackle unregistered schools.

The education regulator has been accused of misrepresenting its existing capability in order to launch an ‘audacious power grab’.

British values

In November 2015, the Government launched a consultation on plans for the state registration of all ‘out-of-school settings’ in England for under 19-year-olds.

This would have regulated a vast number of groups which educate children outside of schools, including sports clubs, cookery classes, and holiday Bible clubs.

Many churches in England would have been caught by the plans. It would have taken only one youngster to attend church activities for six hours in a week for registration to become mandatory for that church.

Inspection by Ofsted could then follow to assess whether teaching was compatible with ‘British values’.

‘Power grab’

Writing for Conservative Home, Alistair Thompson called on Ofsted to “drop this power grab”.

“Ofsted already has the power to target unregistered schools”, said Mr Thompson.

“Setting aside the farcical prospect of Ofsted trying to judge whether a ‘British Values’ complaint about how to bowl a googly, or ring a church bell, might have merit, why should such organisations be subjected to this level of intrusion and unwarranted scrutiny?”.

Enforcing secularism

He also called on new Education Secretary Damian Hinds to reject the latest calls from Ofsted, and instead order it “to focus on what it was set up to do”.

He said that if Ofsted stuck to its proper remit, “it might not repeat the catalogue of mistakes made in recent years, from the Trojan Horse Schools scandal to failing to identify real safeguarding issues”.

Last month, Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman called on head teachers to promote “muscular liberalism” in their schools.

Her comments were criticised by The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart, who said: “My concern is that some Ofsted inspectors will misinterpret the Chief Inspector’s call for ‘muscular liberalism’ as a call for inspectors to enforce more secularism.”