Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, claimed that in many cases the schools were “deliberately choosing not to meet standards” in a report that detailed the inadequacy of selected faith institutions.
She 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.
“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.”
Ms Spielman went on to detail schools that are educating children in “dank, squalid conditions” and explained that some institutions have a “flat refusal” to acknowledge homosexual and bisexual people.
She also told the Evening Standard: “When I see books in schools entitled Women Who Deserve To Go To Hell, children being educated in dank, squalid conditions, children being taught solely religious texts at the expense of learning basic English and mathematics, I cannot let it be ignored.
“We have a proud tradition in this country of respecting religious freedom. But there are occasions when multiculturalism can and does comes into tension with the expectation that students should be prepared for life in modern Britain.”
The report detailed the ethos of Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham that “segregates children” and “spreads discriminatory values about women” as a case in point for renewed change.
It went on: “The recent case of Al-Hijrah School in Birmingham showed that an ethos that completely segregates children in school and that spreads discriminatory views about women is unacceptable. The fact that this reflects a cultural norm in that community does not mean that children can be disadvantaged in their education.
“Within the independent school sector, the proportion of schools judged to be less than good has increased again this year, from 28 per cent to 32 per cent.
“A number were faith schools, either Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, which tended to be highly conservative. In some of the schools found to be inadequate, the premises were unsafe, even squalid.
“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.
“In even more extreme cases, children are being educated illegally in unregistered settings. This means that there are no safeguards in place to make sure children are either safe or receiving a decent education.”
To combat the plethora of issues detailed in Ms Spielman’s first report, the Ofsted chief called for new measures to combat “illegal schools”.
She explained: “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 of Education spokeswoman emphasised that “extremism has no place in our society.”
They added: “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.”
They also told the Daily Mail: “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.”
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