Ofsted has been ordered to carry out a survey of some faith schools, weeks after a critical, right-wing report was published on Muslim schools.
Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, has ordered Ofsted to carry out a survey of a small selection of independent faith schools to examine how they are meeting the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of their pupils.
The motivation for the survey is said to be past inspection reports, which have suggested ‘inconsistency across the sector’, and some concerns which ‘have been raised in relation to a minority of schools’.
However, a fortnight before Balls’ announcement, the right-wing thinktank Civitas published a 174-page report on Muslim faith schools. The report, entitled Music, Chess and Other Sins: Segregation, Integration and Muslim Schools in Britain and based on a study of some schools’ websites, criticised Ofsted for allegedly ‘missing the most crucial facts about the schools’.
The report is written by Denis MacEoin, the controversial author of the 2007 report The Hijacking of British Islam for another right-wing thinktank, Policy Exchange. That report, which claimed to have uncovered extremist literature on sale at dozens of British mosques, was accused by BBC’s Newsnight and others of being based on fabricated evidence.
The Ofsted survey of faith schools is designed to look at the degree to which current practice in some faith schools tallies with the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2003. Under these regulations, schools must enable pupils to develop self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence, distinguish right from wrong and respect the law. The inspectors will also look at the ethos and values of the school and the influences pupils are subject to through the curriculum, extended school activities and through links with external organisations.
The purpose of the survey will be ‘to determine whether the current regulations are fit for purpose in preparing children and young people for life in modern Britain’.
Balls said: ‘Some concerns have been raised recently about practice in a small minority of independent faith schools and whether they are effectively preparing pupils for life in wider British society.’
In a letter to faith leaders and the Independent Schools Council, Balls stated that: ‘Children should have the best start in life and have the opportunity to understand others, have real and positive relationships with people from different backgrounds, and feel part of a community, at a local, national and international level.’
Read an IRR News story: How are thinktanks shaping the political agenda on Muslims in Britain?