Ofsted acknowledgment over unregistered schools

May 20, 2016

OfstedOfsted Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has revealed that the inspectorate has identified more than 100 suspected unregistered schools in England since December and made it known his belief that the schools are ‘likely to represent only a small proportion of the illegal schools operating across the country’. Sir Michael offered his assessment in an open letter to the Secretary of State for Education this week regarding unregistered schools. In a subsequent interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Sir Michael indicated that he thought many of the schools were faith based, with some leaders from the ‘Muslim community and the Jewish community’ encouraging parents to send their children to some of the schools.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Many illegal schools have done a double disservice to the hundreds of children attending, both denying them a rounded general education, including basic skills in English and Maths, and rendering them unable to participate properly in secular life. There is no reason why one cannot be deeply religious and engaged in wider society. They have been an open secret for some years and it is astonishing that it has taken so long to expose them.’

All independent schools are legally required to register with the Department for Education. Failure to register a school attracts a maximum six-month jail sentence and £5,000 fine. Ofsted has taken the existence of unregistered schools more seriously since the 2014 Birmingham schools scandal, where a group of non-faith schools were found to have thought it permissible to only cater for children of a specific background and to reinforce that identity to the exclusion of others.

Accord continues to lobby for conflicts of interest that exist in the inspection of faith schools to be removed. Since 2008 private schools have been able to choose between being inspected by Ofsted or from a group of other approved inspectorates. Under existing arrangements, Ofsted inspectors are barred from specifically inspecting denominational RE or Collective Worship in state funded faith schools. Instead these activities are inspected by an inspectorate aligned with the religion or denomination of the school.

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