Monday, July 03, 2017
Pupils 'at risk' in unregistered religious schools where children are 'beaten and study religious texts all day'
Thousands of pupils are at risk in unregistered faith schools, according to the new Ofsted boss.
Amanda Spielman has called for new powers to protect children who are forced to study religious writings from the Koran, the Talmud and Torah and the Bible "full time".
"It is clear that weaknesses in current legislation allow some organisations to teach school-aged children religious texts full time … and avoid proper scrutiny," Ms Spielman told The Sunday Times.
"Since January 2016 my inspectors have visited numerous establishments that they believe should be registered as schools. The fact that such places are able to operate and remain unregistered leaves pupils at risk."
Inspectors have discovered 286 unregistered schools in England over the past 18 months.
Less than half of them have been inspected, 36 have been issued warnings and the inspectors have not managed to gain access to the rest, The Sunday Times reported.
"We will do everything we can to make sure they comply with the law or are closed. But action is also needed to protect the children who attend these places," said Ms Spielman.
Up to 6,000 pupils are taught in unregistered centres. Some schools have closed, but none of the places Ofsted recommended for prosecution have come to court.
In one Hasidic Jewish school in Stamford Hill in North London, Talmud Torah Tashbar, former pupils told the newspaper about being hit with a stick for asking questions, having a finger broken or being forced to stuff chalk or soap in their mouths.
Many pupils are registered as home-educated but attend the school during the day.
The Department for Education said: "We have given Ofsted resources to step up investigations, identify them and work with us to take whatever action is required, including closing the school or working with the police and Crown Prosecution Service as necessary.
"There are already powers in place for local authorities and the police to safeguard children and intervene where they are not receiving a suitable education. We will support them in using these powers."
Ms Spielman, speaking last month at Wellington College after the spate of terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, said pupils should be taught "British values".
They should, she said, be given the "knowledge and resilience" to combat violent rhetoric from hate preachers who "put hatred in their hearts and poison in their minds".
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