A secular campaign group has praised the head of Ofsted for “rebuking” the Church of England with her comments on “muscular liberalism”.
Last week Amanda Spielman came under fire for a speech to a C of E education conference where she warned against conservative voices in religion.
But the National Secular Society said the remarks were a “welcome intervention” and suggested religious “sensibilities” should not be tolerated.
Responding to the speech last week, The Christian Institute said Ofsted inspectors must not take the Chief Inspector’s comments as an opportunity to enforce aggressive secularism.
The Institute also raised concerns about Spielman’s accusation that Anglicans have obstructed plans to increase Ofsted’s power.
But National Secular Society Chief Executive Stephen Evans said it was vital that ministers “resist” people who “narrow children’s horizons and indoctrinate them”.
“We welcome Amanda Spielman’s commitment to tackling this problem where it exists and Ofsted’s willingness to support school leaders who stand up to fundamentalism.
“We are also pleased to see her willingness to rebuke the Church of England for its resistance to laws which would help to protect young people in out-of-school settings.”
The out-of-school settings plan could have seen Ofsted inspecting Sunday schools, youth groups and many other non-school groups. Proposed sanctions included banning people from working with children and closing down groups. However, the Government appears to have dropped the scheme.
Responding to the Ofsted chief’s speech, The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart 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.
“Muscular liberalism must not mean aggressive secularism.”
He said he hoped Spielman will be able to promote “the Great British tradition of liberalism” which has at its heart “the freedom to disagree”.
Mr Hart noted: “The Christian Institute has disagreed with the way in which some Ofsted inspectors have gone about their work.
“For example demanding that Vishnitz – an Orthodox Jewish School – should be promoting transgender rights to five-year-olds.”
But he said: “Just because you have socially conservative views doesn’t mean you’ve got a foot on the first step of an escalator leading to violent extremism.”