Plans to register Sunday schools under government counter-extremism strategy dropped

A senior government source told The Times that the Church of England considered "the idea of registration too draconian".Reuters

The British government will drop plans to require out-of-school groups involving children to register with the local council following a personal intervention by the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Times reports.

According to the newspaper, Archbishop Justin Welby raised concerns about the plans with senior members of government.

The Department for Education announced the plans last year which would force institutions that teach under-19s for more than six hours a week to register. The move was part of the government's counter-extremism strategy and came after concerns children were exposed to extremist views in a small number of Muslim madrassas.

Many church youth groups and Sunday schools could have fallen above the threshold and therefore would have had to join the register and face inspections by government officials.

A coalition of Christian charities in April accused Ofsted, the schools' inspections body, of becoming the "state regulator of religion" and urged Christians to oppose the plans.

CARE, Christian Concern, the Evangelical Alliance, the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship and The Christian Institute signed the statement which labeled the plans an "unacceptable overreach of the state". A spokesman for CARE at the time told Christian Today this coming together "demonstrates both the worrying nature of the government's plans and the strong resolve within the Christian community to stand up for the freedom to teach the Christian faith to the next generation without unnecessary State interference".

A senior government source told The Times that the Church of England considered "the idea of registration too draconian".

"That requirement has now been dropped," the source said. "It still means that Ofsted can go in if there is reasonable cause, but it will remove the requirement to register."

An announcement is expected to be made by the government "in due course", a spokesperson confirmed.