Sunday schools and youth groups to face Ofsted inspections warns Evangelical Alliance


Sunday schools, home schooling, youth groups, churches and even Christian festivals could face Ofsted inspections under new government proposals, the Evangelical Alliance is warning.

The Evangelical Alliance is calling on its members to respond to a government consultation on extremism which will require educational groups outside school to register with the Department of Education and have regular Ofsted inspections.

Churches, youth groups, holiday clubs, church camps, Christian festivals, Bible-reading groups, homeschooling events or training courses for those under 19, lasting six hours or more per week, would be subject to registration and inspection by Ofsted under the current proposals, according to the alliance. "As it stands, a single one-off event lasting a day would also appear to require registration," the alliance warned.

The government is "concerned" about educational settings, including supplementary schools and tuition centres.

It has been estimated that there are more than 3,000 supplementary schools in England providing education and activities for children.

Many of these are faith based, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Others teach subjects such as maths or a foreign language. The Counter Extremism Strategy document admits that many provide religious and moral guidance that families find valuable.

"The Government values and supports the role these organisations play in society," it says. "However, there is little regulation or oversight of supplementary schools and tuition centres and limited information on the practices within them. Reports indicate that in some settings parents do not know what their children are being taught or feel unable to challenge the teaching; and pupils may be at risk of being presented with, and believing, twisted interpretations of their religion. These issues heighten the potential risks for such settings to be exploited by extremists."

The consultaton says that to address concerns about supplementary schools, the Department for Education will introduce "a new system to enable intervention in unregulated education settings which teach children intensively."

This intervention will apply if there are concerns about the safety or welfare of the children attending them, including from extremism. "This will provide for the registration of settings so that they can be inspected and will introduce appropriate sanctions to protect children," the consultation says.

Intensive tuition is anything that involves a child under the age of 19 attending a setting for more than between six to eight hours a week, including evenings and weekends.

The alliance says: "We are concerned about these proposals and would urge all of its members who are involved in the tuition, instruction or training to those under 19 to submit evidence to the consultation highlighting the problems within the government's proposed approach."

The alliance is asking church leaders to consider whether the proposals will affect their ministries.

"Do you consider there is any tension between 'British Values' 'Extremism' and orthodox biblical teaching? Is it possible that a young person participating in the life of your church over a week may meet the time threshold for registration? Are you concerned about the cost and burden of these proposals?" the alliance asks.

Teachers are asked to consider the implications this could have for helping out with church activities. "Would the threat of a safeguarding complaint issued against a ministry you're involved in deter you from volunteering due to the implications for your career? Would your church be required to make multiple registrations? Does your church have the resources to maintain this monitoring process? Would the prospect of an Ofsted inspection make you less likely to help out with supplementary education?"