Ofsted inspectors are taking a “liberal-intolerant approach” to policing the promotion of ‘British values’ in schools, a broadcaster has warned.
Writing in The Spectator, Dennis Sewell criticised the schools’ regulator’s inspections after the Government issued controversial new standards requiring schools to actively promote ‘British values’.
Sewell commented: “One of those British values is supposed to be ‘tolerance’, and implicit in the word ‘tolerance’ is that one should not have to like or approve what is tolerated.
“Yet we have already seen a school criticised for not ensuring different sexual orientations are ‘valued’, which means something else entirely.”
Sewell highlighted that Ofsted recently “bulldozed its way through the faith school sector”, asking “traumatising” questions.
He also referred to a Roman Catholic school in Suffolk which was told it “wasn’t doing enough to warn its pupils about the dangers of radicalisation”.
“Ofsted later withdrew the criticism”, Sewell noted, “but what were they thinking?”
The Christian Institute threatened a judicial review against the regulations, over their damage to religious liberty.
But the Department for Education has issued new guidance which takes on board some of the Institute’s concerns.
Respect for people
The guidelines, issued to every school in England, clarify that schools must promote respect for people, as opposed to respect for their beliefs. They also say schools are not required to “promote alternative lifestyles or same sex marriage”.
Sewell claimed that the head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, is “well qualified” to draft guidelines for inspectors to ensure appropriate inspections are carried out.
But he warned that if Sir Michael “wants to prevent Ofsted being held up to public ridicule every week in the tabloids for ‘political correctness gone mad’, this time he will have to make sure his inspectors do what he says”.
The Christian Institute’s Simon Calvert said that Ofsted is clearly not following the guidance in many cases.
As a result, he continued, The Christian Institute is “actively seeking to bring a test case against Ofsted where it has acted outside its remit, without proper regard for religious freedom”.