Call for Ofsted chief to resign over Sunday school 'inspections'

Sir Michael WilshawReuters

A senior Conservative MP has called for ministers to sack the chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw after he said church and religious groups which involve children will need to be registered under new rules

The Government, whose consultation on the plans closed last week, has consistently maintained that Sunday schools and one-off gatherings will not be caught by the proposals intended to prevent the radicalisation of children in unregulated educational settings.

The stated aim has been that places where children aged up to 18 receive more than six hours a week of instruction will have to register and face Ofsted inspections in future.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, told an LBC phone-in that the Government is concerned about the radicalisation of children in unregistered schools and wants Sunday schools, madrassas and after-school clubs to be registered.

He said: "That won't take a lot of time and we will not be inspecting every one of them but we will know that they exist. And if there are concerns, if whistle-blowers do tell us there's an issue, then we will go in and inspect."

Asked by LBC's Nick Ferrari why Sunday schools would be "lumped into one potential problem area", Sir Michael said: "We've got to deal with this in an even-handed way". He explained: "All we're saying is that if church groups or religious groups want to run out-of-school classes then they need to register so that the country and the Department of Education know they exist and that they're being run properly".

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has contradicted Sir Michael.

In a letter received by The Christian Institute she said:"We are not proposing to regulate institutions teaching children for a short period every week, such as Sunday schools or the Scouts. Nor will the proposed system apply to one off residential activities, such as a week long Summer camp."

Four Conservative MPs have criticised the plans.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Sir Gerald Howarth, Fiona Bruce, David Burrowes and Gary Streeter said they will have a "seriously detrimental effect" on the freedom of religious organisations.

A meeting between Conservative MPs and Sir Michael Morgan is due this week as well as a Parliamentary debate on Wednesday.

The plans were announced by the Prime Minister last year. He said he wanted to take action against the minority of places where children had their "heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate".

Sir Gerald Howarth, Conservative defence minister in Mr Cameron's last government, called on Sir Michael resign. He told The  Daily Telegraph: "He has flatly contradicted ministers who have assured us that there is no intention of investigating Sunday schools, and he has used as justificaiton the very criticism that we have made that he wants to be even handed.

"You cannot be even handed about people who present no threat to this country at all and people who present a very real and present threat.

"It will be Sir Michael and his officials who will decide whether to engage in regulation of Sunday schools which is absurd.

"Unless Sir Michael publicly renounces an intention to investigate Sunday schools, the minsters must sack him - he must go.

"We cannot have an Ofsted inspector behaving in this high handed and draconian fashion."