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15 January 2016

Press release

Ofsted chief calls for registration of Sunday schools

Ofsted chief calls for registration of Sunday schools

The head of Ofsted has confirmed churches will have to register Sunday schools under new government proposals to be debated in parliament on Wednesday.

The Evangelical Alliance has campaigned against the current plans and branded the proposal to register all Sunday schools as the state regulation of religion. The government's regulation could stop the ability of the Church to run activities for children and young people.

Sunday schools, youth groups, and many other organised activities will require to sign up to a register so, in Sir Michael Wilshaw's words, the government 'knows they're there".

The out-of-school education proposals were published shortly before Christmas. The plans require the registration and possible inspection of any setting that provides six or more hours of tuition, training or instruction within a week, even if that only happens once a year.

Government officials had previously sort to provide reassurance they were not targeting Sunday schools, however, these latest comments raise significant concerns for the intended scope of regulation, which cover "unsuitable teachers and undesirable teaching".

Sir Michael Wilshaw, in a phone-in on LBC radio, said: "The government want Sunday schools, madrasas and after-school clubs to be registered. That won't take a lot of time. We won't inspect every one of them, but we will know they exist. If there are concerns – if whistle blowers tell us there's an issue – then we will go in."

Dr David Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, responded to these comments: "These proposals amount to the state regulation of private religion.

"Sunday schools in churches are publically advertised and in open access buildings. It's also highly unlikely that extremist groups of concern are going to register with the government.

"Sufficient laws already exist in relation to the health and safety and safeguarding of young people. It's misconceived for the government to believe that these proposals will do anything to address the problem it legitimately seeks to solve.

Sir Edward Leigh will lead a debate in Westminster Hall on 20 January about these proposals. The Alliance is calling for MPs from across the House to attend and hear concerns about the plans.

Media Enquiries

Danny Webster
Tel: 07766 444 650
Email: d.webster@eauk.org

Notes to Editors

  1. The government's proposals on 'Out-of-schools education settings' can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/480133/out_of_school_education_settings_call_for_evidence.pdf
  2. Sir Michael Wilshaw's interview on LBC can be heard here (relevant comments at 11 minutes in): http://www.lbc.co.uk/ofsted-chief-michael-wilshaw-on-lbc-watch-from-9am-123126
  3. In response to Lord Storey government minister Lord Nash sought to reassure members of the House of Lords in comments available here: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/5a6a4610-f69c-4fdd-bf33-8d847f4b4fe6?in=11:13:40&out=11:18:39
  4. The Westminster Hall debate will take place at 9.30am on 20 January 2016 and will be available to watch here: http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/26ccaa60-67c0-4321-b5e3-b47be504d5b1

The Evangelical Alliance

We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.