A rising number of conservative religious schools are actively undermining British values with children exposed to ‘sexist and sectarian’ books, the head of Ofsted has warned.
Amanda Spielman, the watchdog’s chief inspector, said schools were ‘deliberately choosing’ not to meet standards due parents’ expectations of religious education.
Figures show 58% of the 160 independent Muslim schools are either inadequate or require improvement, more than 80 schools nationwide.
Meanwhile 54% of the 60 independent Jewish schools fall in the same bottom two categories and 33% or the 110 independent Christian schools.
Some faith schools are ‘actively undermining fundamental British values’, a report found
A graph in the report shows a higher percentage of faith schools are inadequate, with Jewish and Muslim schools most likely to require improvement
The report also said current powers were ‘inadequate’ to tackle unregistered schools, which are being set up to avoid teaching in accordance with the law.
In her first annual report, Ms Spielman 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.’
Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman made the criticisms in her first annual report
She added: ‘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 later told London’s 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.’
Some of the schools found to be inadequate had premises which were ‘unsafe, even squalid’.
The report said: ‘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.’
The reported highlight the Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham as one where issues of ‘discriminatory views about women’ had arisen
Blunder sees 135 schools wrongly named as failing by Ofsted
Ofsted has apologised after several schools were mistakenly featured on a list of more than 100 consistently underachieving schools.
The education watchdog named 135 primary and secondary schools which have failed to record a good or outstanding inspection since 2005, but later said 11 had been included in error.
All 135 schools initially named had been judged to be satisfactory, inadequate or requiring improvement at each of their last four inspections, Ofsted said.
Focusing on one example, the report states: ‘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.’
Since January 2016, Ofsted has identified 291 possible settings which may be unregistered, the report said.
Around 125 inspections have taken place, 38 warning notices have been issued, 34 settings have closed or ceased operating illegally and the remaining cases remain under active investigation, the report said.
Ms Spielman called for greater powers to combat ‘illegal schools’.
She said: ‘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.’
She found ‘community expectations’ were forced some schools to ‘avoid teaching the unifying messages taught in the vast majority of schools in England’
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: ‘Extremism has no place in our society.
‘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.
‘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.’
Calls for madrasas and Sunday schools to be regulated in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal
The Trojan Horse scandal started with an anonymous letter in March 2014 describing an Islamic plot to take over schools in Birmingham called ‘Operation Trojan Horse’.
The document – now thought to be a hoax – proposed a campaign of installing governors and undermining and then replacing school leaders with staff who would be more sympathetic to their religious agenda.
That in turn led to 21 schools being inspected by schools inspector Ofsted, which put six schools in special measures and said five had not done enough to protect children from extremism.
An education official in Birmingham called for better regulation of religious schools
In the wake of the scandal Colin Diamond, corporate director for children and young people at Birmingham City Council, last month said Sunday schools and madrasas are ‘classrooms by any other name’ and should be subject to more regulation.
He told the Times Educational Supplement (TES), Mr Diamond said: ‘I think the biggest risks in terms of exposure to any form of non-mainstream societal values are either if you are at home, because you are not part of the social group, or if you are in an independent school that is at the margins of things, or if you are in the unregulated space, which includes Sunday schools, madrasas, all these places where there is no regulation whatsoever.
‘Thousands of kids in this city will go to education spaces this evening and will be there for a few hours, and will be taught about Koranic values or Christian values.
‘We feel they should be regulated. These are classrooms by any other name.
‘I do wish the Government would grasp this stingy old nettle.’