Catholic and Anglican schools are not producing “Christian jihadists” and Ofsted should put itself in special measures for its treatment of top performing faith schools, a Tory MP has said.
Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), a prominent Catholic member of the Commons, said last year’s rules on teaching British values, introduced in the wake of the so-called “trojan horse” scandal at some schools in Birmingham, may have been introduced in a knee jerk way.
It emerged last year several schools in the city had been infiltrated by people promoting an extremist Islamic agenda.
The MP said a “staggering” number of the country’s top schools were faith schools. But he told the Commons: “Far from preaching intolerance, these schools because of their strong, unifying, religious ethos do more for social cohesion than a 1,000 Home Office initiatives.
He said in September the National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools had written to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan complaining Ofsted inspectors were asking “hugely inappropriate” questions and “bullied” pupils with insensitive and anti-religious questions.
“I don’t think there is any evidence church schools creating Christian jihadists, the thought any of these primary schools, Catholic or Anglican, in the maintained sector are teaching intolerance is completely absurd.
“You must be entitled … that they start from their own religion. If you look at any of the great world religions, what do they teach? They teach understanding and tolerance and love of God and love of neighbour.
“It may be that the time has come that Ofsted should put themselves in special measures. They appear to be guilty of trying to impose a sort of state orthodoxy on certain moral and religious questions.
“We have to ask whether we can any longer have confidence in these reports?”
Sir Edward said the inspectorate was not being held accountable by the Department for Education for its action.
He added: “There would be justified outrage if Ofsted demanded secular or atheist schools actively promoted Christianity as such. Why then should Christian schools actively promote what they hold to be untrue?
“Inform about (other faiths), I agree, but actively promote is immoral, impossible and I believe a crime against their conscience.”