Threatened Christian school urges Nicky Morgan to revise ‘British values’ rules
A school which was told by Ofsted that it could face closure for failing to uphold ‘British values’ has written to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan urging her to review controversial new education standards.
Trinity Christian School, a small independent school in Reading, was rated “excellent” for its provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in November last year.
It was told that pupils were “well prepared for life in modern, multicultural, democratic British society through the teaching of the Christian principle to ‘love thy neighbour'”.
However, following an inspection this month it was deemed not to be meeting the revised Department for Education requirements introduced in late September.
This issue “dominated” the inspector’s questions, the school said, and “at no point were any questions asked about other aspects of the curriculum or the quality of teaching assessed through lesson observations”.
The school was told that representatives of other faiths should be invited to lead assemblies and lessons.
It was also told, that in order to comply with the new regulations, it should ‘actively promote’ other faiths, and the principles of the Equality Act 2010, and was warned against promoting a “particular lifestyle”.
In the letter to Nicky Morgan, John Charles, the Chairman of Governors at the school, said: “From November 2013 to October 2014 the school has continued the same provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development which Ofsted adjudged excellent in November 2013.
“Yet, immediately following the introduction of the revised school standards, the school is threatened with the prospect of closure.
“We cannot understand how such a change in thinking can take place within a year.
“It is an explicit aim of ours to encourage pupils to serve and respect other people, appreciate different cultures and ideas and equip them for life in society. But the comments made by Ofsted, as a result of the new regulations, undermine our aims and would prevent us from teaching in accordance with our Christian foundation.”
It concluded: “We would be very grateful if you would look into this matter for us and review your decision regarding the new regulations.”
National religious liberty charity The Christian Institute is supporting the school, after having previously raised concerns about the new education standards.
Deputy Director Simon Calvert said: “This is a small Christian school which has previously been rated ‘good’ overall and ‘excellent’ for its spiritual, moral, social and cultural provision.
“Christian schools like Trinity have a reputation for high standards and well-rounded pupils and they should have the freedom to continue doing what they’ve always done. Parents clearly want such schools to thrive, and the Department for Education should too.
“At the beginning of the summer we warned that if the Government brought in these regulations then they would be enforcing political correctness in schools. We also said there would be hostility to the religious, and ethical, viewpoints of religious schools.
“The DfE said it would never happen, but since then we’ve been finding case after case where that’s exactly what’s going on.
“The problem is there has been a clear shift from respecting people and understanding where they are coming from, which is a profoundly Christian approach, to a new approach where you actually have to respect the content of different religions and the content of different lifestyles.
“You can’t pretend that you think other beliefs are true if they’re in conflict with your own set of beliefs.
“These new regulations require schools to actively promote belief systems other than their own – that’s the problem. Of course we must respect people as people, and of course it can be fascinating to hear from people with different perspectives, but that’s not what’s going on here.
“The law has long respected the ability of religious schools to prioritise the teaching of their own faith.
In this case, a Christian school, with Christian teachers and a Christian ethos – paid for by Christian parents – is being told they should have other religious leaders come in and lead collective worship.
“Many Christian families would simply not want to subject their children to that. The kids at this school are aged five to seven, so they would find it confusing to say the least. The DfE has been saying they are not going to be requiring children to take part in religious worship from traditions other than their own, but with the regulations worded as they are, Ofsted seems to think that’s exactly what these new regulations mean.
“Nobody can accept all faiths – should everyone accept scientology for example, or should we be able to say we think it’s wrong?
“That’s the problem with this vague wording that the DfE rely on in their new rules.
“What we need, is to go back to the drawing board to actually talk to stakeholders, talk to faith schools, find out where they’re coming from and come up with a set of proposals which don’t require them to promote beliefs which profoundly go against their own.”