Education watchdog Ofsted has been criticised for their “determination to fail our schools”, following a report which claimed some faith-based schools are actively undermining British values.
A rising number of conservative religious schools are “deliberately choosing” not to meet standards due to the tensions between legal requirements and community expectations, according to its chief inspector, Amanda Spielman
She said current powers were “inadequate” to tackle unregistered schools, which are being set up to avoid teaching in accordance with the law.
In her first annual report, Ms Spielman said: “In the overwhelming majority of state-funded schools, whether faith or not, these values are embedded in the school’s ethos and teaching.
“However, there are also those who seek to isolate young people from the mainstream, do not prepare them for life in Britain or, worse, actively undermine fundamental British values.”
She added: “We have found an increasing number of conservative religious schools where the legal requirements that set the expectations for shared values and tolerance clash with community expectations.
“The schools are, therefore, deliberately choosing not to meet these standards.
“This tension is also leading to the creation of illegal ‘schools’ that avoid teaching the unifying messages taught in the vast majority of schools in England.
“Both of these situations are of great concern.”
Rabbi David Meyer Executive Director of PaJeS (Partnership for Jewish Schools) responded by criticising Ofted’s ‘obsession’ with Jewish faith schools. He said: “We are proud of how our community and particularly our schools embed British values at every level. Oftsed have again shown their obsession with limited elements of the curriculum which serve their determination to fail our schools.
We live in a Christian country with a proud tradition of respect for other faiths, and Ofted would do better to recognise that, rather than be led by anti-faith groups who show only intolerance and disdain.”
Among independent schools, the proportion judged to be less than good has increased from 28% to 32%, the report states.
A number of those not meeting standards were Christian, Jewish, or Muslim faith schools “which tended to be highly conservative”.
Some of the schools found to be inadequate had premises which were “unsafe, even squalid”.
The report said: “The most basic checks, such as whether staff were suitable to work with children, were not in place.
“Perhaps more significantly, in a handful of schools inspectors found instances of sexist and sectarian literature.”
Since January 2016, Ofsted has identified 291 possible settings which may be unregistered, the report said.
Around 125 inspections have taken place, 38 warning notices have been issued, 34 settings have closed or ceased operating illegally and the remaining cases remain under active investigation, the report said.
Ms Spielman called for greater powers to combat “illegal schools”.
She said: “Current legislation is inadequate to tackle unregistered schools.
“It limits our powers to tackle them and allows institutions to exploit loopholes about definitions of education.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Extremism has no place in our society.
“That’s why we changed the law and the requirements on schools so that they have to actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and the mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
“It is absolutely right that Ofsted reports on schools that fail to protect children or fail in any other way to meet the standards we expect, so that we can take action to ensure they adhere to the law.
“An academy could be re-brokered, and a maintained school have an interim board appointed or be converted into an academy.
“Any independent school that does not comply with the independent school standards must either improve or we will close it down.
“We always support Ofsted, local authorities and the police in tackling unregistered schools, which are illegal and unsafe.”