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15 January 2016

Ofsted chief confirms Sunday schools need to register under extremism proposals

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

Despite reassurances that government proposals were not targeting Sunday schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw confirmed on London radio station LBC that where a young person attends a 'religious setting', it would have to register with the State and be subject to inspection. 

Challenged on the practicality of this, the chief of education inspectors said that while the majority won't see his officers on a Sunday morning, all sessions must be registered so that the government "knows they're there".

He went on: "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."

Despite assurances by officials in the Department for Education that these new proposals aren't intended to monitor the content taught to children by churches, the proposals provide for the identification of "unsuitable staff and undesirable teaching".

Sir Michael spoke of a number of institutions he was aware of that were putting children at risk of abuse and radicalisation.

He admitted these examples were all madrasas, but said: "We've got to do this in an even-handed way."

The Ofsted chief added: "The government needs to know where these places are and who is running them."

The Evangelical Alliance has been campaigning against these proposals, which could affect the Church's ability to run activities for children and young people.

Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Alliance, said: "These proposals amount to the state regulation of private religion. 

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

"There are already sufficient laws 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."

The government will debate the proposals next Wednesday, 20 January, at 9.30am and the Alliance is urging all members to contact their MP, asking that they attend the adjournment debate in Westminster Hall and listen to the arguments. To do this, fill in the form below. 

The Alliance is concerned that many MPs are currently unaware of the proposals and the harm they could cause to churches across the country.

If you are able to, please do attend the on Wednesday, or watch it by following the link here.

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