Britain’s school inspection body is demanding new powers to tackle conservative faith schools that spread beliefs that “clash with British values”.
Ofsted claims in its annual report that an increasing number of religious schools teach a curriculum that undermines tolerance and respect, and says that its work is being hampered as there is no legal requirement to register children as home-schooled.
Amanda Spielman, the group’s head, said spreading “shared values” would be one of Ofsted’s main priorities for the coming year.
“Current legislation is inadequate to tackle unregistered schools. It limits our powers and allows institutions to exploit loopholes about definitions of education,” the report says.
“The existence of unregistered schools is possible because there is no requirement to register a child as home educated, so there is no record of children who have never been in school.”
Ofsted also said that a number of independent schools judged inadequate or in need of improvement were “highly conservative” Christian, Jewish and Muslim schools.
“In some of these schools, the premises are unsafe or squalid,” the report says. “The most basic checks are not always in place. Inspectors have also found sexist and sectarian literature in some schools.
“In even more extreme cases, children are being educated illegally in unregistered settings. This means there are no safeguards in place to make sure children are either safe or receiving a decent education.”
The report will increase fears that the government could use the “British values” agenda to undermine the freedom of Catholic schools to pass on the faith.
Earlier this year, Dame Louise Casey, the government’s top advisor on community integration, said it was “not OK” for Catholic schools to oppose same-sex marriage, adding that she had a problem with “religious conservatism” because it could be “anti-equalities”.
In an article for the Catholic Herald, Catholic MP Sir Edward Leigh accused Dame Louise of try to “intimidate minorities into conforming to metropolitan liberalism”, however she responded in a letter than she was not calling for a change in the law regarding Catholic schools.
“I was not suggesting that the law should go any further than the existing requirement that teaching is conducted in an appropriate, factual, reasonable, professional and sensitive way.”