Feature

DOING THE MATHS ON ‘ROGUE’ FAITH SCHOOLS

You might be forgiven for being confused. Everyone is. Well, everyone apart from Ofsted, that renowned shape shifter designed by John Major’s government to regulate inspection standards across the country. The picture began to fog over somewhere during 2014 as Ofsted morphed from an academic standards inspection force to a totalitarian social engineering enforcer, accountable only to itself, mandating amorphous British values with LGBT rights at the pinnacle of the equalities hierarchy.

The emergence of British values onto centre stage as a result of Trojan Horse is well documented. The concept was nothing new – simply the Blair administration’s community cohesion plan, dressed up in nationalistic clothes. Under its guise, Ofsted turned its hand to no notice inspections, issuing dire warnings about thousands of children missing from school and in danger of radicalisation. A disproportionate number of schools subjected to this new form of trial were faith schools, including Christian and Jewish schools that suddenly found themselves branded extremist, even though no radicalised students who choose to become terrorists have ever emerged from their communities.

Sir Michael Wilshaw’s vigorous pursuit of no notice inspections soon hit a snag. Heads and senior leaders weren’t always in school. In one case, the whole school was out on a trip. But that wasn’t a problem – in November 2014, with zeal unabated, SMW wrote to Nicky Morgan, the then Secretary of State for Education, saying that, ‘This exercise has confirmed that we have the regional intelligence and the appropriate powers to conduct inspections’. Regional intelligence? It started to sound like the language of a police state. Virtue signalling became the order of the day in order to be acceptable in Ofsted’s new social enforcement plan.

And so it has continued. The line of attack shifts occasionally (not least if there’s any media kickback) but like a clockwork mouse hitting an obstacle, Ofsted simply redefines British values and heads off in another direction. It was necessary, we were told, because hundreds of children were at risk. With ever increasing hyperbole, that quickly became thousands. And then someone hit on the idea of including home education figures in the data of Children Missing from Education (CME), so that tens of thousands of parents simply exercising their right to educate their child as they thought best suddenly became potential radicalisers or child abusers.

And then, three weeks ago, Ofsted declared that is it going to ‘throw the book at rogue faith schools – whether Jewish, Christian or Islamic’. Even though they already have all the powers they need, Amanda Spielman called for new laws and new powers for Ofsted to protect children in ‘fundamentalist centres … who mostly study religious writings such as the Koran, the Talmud and Torah, as well as the Bible’. But do the maths – something doesn’t add up. Ofsted has found 286 unregistered schools and of the 116 so far inspected, only 36 were issued with notices. That means 80 of these schools which stand accused of radicalising children are absolutely fine. And were they day schools, or weekend or evening centres?

Do some more maths. Only 1 in 5 are faith schools. So why is the article all about ‘’rogue’ faith schools when only 20 per cent of the schools under suspicion are faith based and of those, most are clearly complying with the law?

The answer to that is hidden away at the end of the article. They aren’t actually talking about schools at all. They’re softening up public opinion ready to respond to the 2015 consultation on inspecting out of school settings such as Sunday schools. That is going to fall within the remit of the government’s anti-extremism strategy.

So, coming soon, to a church near you, an Ofsted inspector searching out extremist , fundamentalist Christian teaching, that is, parents who read the Bible with their children. It’s young people sharing time with their youth leaders, seeking to understand, with the help of the Holy Spirit, how God wants them to live. Ofsted will be ‘protecting the children who attend these places’ (for which read ‘your church’) from harm by preventing their parents from reading the Bible with them.

And that is exactly where Ofsted will fall. Failure to prepare children for life in modern Britain is now a safeguarding offence. That preparation involves teaching children from the age of 3 about same sex relationships and gender reassignment – as the recent inspection of Vishnitz Girls’ School demonstrated, this is Ofsted’s single-minded agenda. If they intend to enforce it within the very heart of our Christian communities, they will, by their own definition, be putting not Christians, but the Bible on trial.

So, challenge the Bible if you wish, Ofsted, but you will not thwart God, because this is what He says through the prophet Isaiah: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways … as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it’ (Isaiah 55:8-11).