A secularist pressure group claims that controversial proposals requiring independent schools to actively promote British values ‘do not go far enough’.
The National Secular Society (NSS) called for the new standards to specifically mention human rights and ban the promotion of “partisan religious views” in the teaching of any subject.
In their response to a Government consultation, the group also said schools shouldn’t be allowed to admit pupils according to their religion, and said schools should no longer hold assemblies “associated with a particular set of religious beliefs”.
The Christian Institute has threatened the Department for Education with legal action over the consultation, which was just six weeks long and overlapped with the summer holidays.
The Institute says it is a rushed response to the Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham, where certain state schools were taken over by governors seeking to impose harsh Islamic practices.
The proposals would force schools to promote rights based on the Equality Act 2010, including sexual orientation and transsexualism.
Stephen Evans, campaigns manager of the NSS, claimed that the education system has become a “free for all” for groups to promote particular ideologies.
He added: “Ultimately, serious questions need to be asked about the role of religion in schools and whether the religious inculcation of children should be permissible at all in publicly funded education.”
The Government intends to roll out the changes to all state schools. The Christian Institute has for many years highlighted cases of Christians being marginalised in the education system, even before these new standards for schools were proposed.
For example, in 2007 pupils were forced to attend a pro-LGBT assembly against their parents’ wishes, in 2008 boys were given detentions for refusing to pray to Allah, and in 2009 a college removed Christmas and Easter from their staff calendar.
Commenting on the proposals, Director of The Christian Institute Colin Hart said, “Under the regulations parents are explicitly sidelined in their views” and can be “challenged if they disagree with the new Government rules on equality”.
The Department for Education recently announced that nurseries would have their public funding cut unless they promote “fundamental British values”.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “There can be no place for extremist views anywhere in the education system.
“The changes we are making today will ensure all early years providers and schools are aligned with the need to protect children from views that are considered extreme.”
The Department for Education has launched a consultation on the nursery changes, which are expected to be introduced next year.
Ofsted will be required to inspect early years providers against the new criteria.
All three and four year olds, and some two year olds, can receive free part-time early education in England, which is mainly delivered by school-based nurseries or those run by private and voluntary sector organisations.
But according to the consultation document, a nursery would be excluded from local authority funding if did not “actively promote fundamental British values; or promotes, as evidence-based, views and theories which are contrary to established scientific or historical evidence and explanations”.