Warnings over new guidance for church youth groups

A Department for Education (DfE) consultation hinting at regulation of out-of-schools settings is raising concerns.

The consultation has prompted fears that new controls could be foisted on Sunday Schools, youth groups, and sports teams.

Similar plans were floated in 2015, which included proposals for Ofsted to become in effect the ‘state regulator of religion’. These were dropped after opposition from Christians and others.

‘Politically correct orthodoxies’

One question in the consultation asks how to ensure the ‘voluntary’ code of conduct is taken up, and that groups meet the standards set.

Former Education Minister Sir John Hayes said: “Many groups and volunteers will perceive these proposals as a trap – hyper-regulation designed to prevent them from breaching politically correct orthodoxies, identifying and reprimanding those who do.”

Referring to the previous attempt, Sir John added: “The idea that Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies, Sunday schools, sports teams and cadet forces should be assessed and graded by the Government and its agencies is as unwholesome and unwelcome now as it was then.”

State control

MP for Monmouth David Davies said: “Madrasas radicalising young people is something people would expect the Government to try to control.

“However, setting up a burdensome bureaucracy for all clubs is absolutely crazy. It will affect all sorts of worthy groups who don’t pose any sort of a problem and will lead to many of them closing down.

“I hope this is not an attempt to sneak in state control of voluntary organisations providing excellent activities for young people.”

A DfE spokesman claimed: “This is about helping organisations with a voluntary code of practice”.

‘Invasive’

But The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart called the guidance “invasive”.

“This is the same mentality and approach that the Department took three years ago when its attempt to introduce legislation failed due to widespread opposition.

“It is trying to introduce this via the back door and the consultation clearly holds open the prospect of making it compulsory.”