Below is the statement written by the Northern Council of Mosques in response to the UK Government’s consultation over the registration and monitoring of “out-of-school settings”.
The statement has been sent to politicians, academics and the mainstream media to demonstrate the opposition to such measures.
“In view of the opinions expressed by senior political figures in recent months, it sadly appears to many that the Government is determined to see through the regulation of the education in out-of-school settings despite there being an overwhelming rejection of it. The Government is driven to regulate out-of-school settings under a misguided belief that regulation is required because there exists compelling and quality evidence that justifies religious education out-of-school settings are engaging in ‘’prohibited activities’’ that is ‘’undesirable teaching, for example teaching which undermines or is incompatible with fundamental British values, or which promotes extremist views’’.
“We believe that there is no compelling necessity for regulating a community education sector that has served and flourished independently. It allows communities to take responsibility for addressing special and additional educational needs not adequately catered for or provided by the state education system. It would be irresponsible on the part of the government to dampen/ destroy the community spirit, action and ownership that has served us well.
“If areas of improvement are needed for religious education in out-of-school settings, we believe that the state regulation is a massive over reaction. Rather the communities themselves are in the best position to address any potential concerns in partnership with other local stakeholders.
“Observations, concerns and recommendations:
“It is our collective duty to ‘represent’ the concerns of and recommendations from our members from the Islamic religious education sector. Thus, we take this opportunity to make a number of observations, concerns and recommendations with respect to the proposed Government regulation of religious education in out-of-school settings.
- We strongly hold onto the view that Mosques/Madrassas and other faith providers including Churches/Sunday Schools and Synagogues/Yeshivas should remain independent to practise and educate within their respective faith without undue Government interference.
- Further, religious education in out-of-school settings have been established with ‘’the paramount interest’’ and wellbeing of children in mind, to learn in a safe environment. The proposals contained in the consultation document clearly breach the independency of faith providers.
- The proposal of ‘registration’, ‘inspection’ and ‘sanctions’ as set out in the consultation document clearly departs from the British tradition not to regulate religious education and worship in the following three ways:
- a) Firstly, any providers of religious education in out-of-school settings would be required by ‘compulsion’ to ‘register with the Government via the LA and/or Ofsted.
- b) Secondly, once registered the religious education provider would be subject to a Government inspection regime via LA and/or Ofsted. We note that the inspection regime as with state schools, would inspect the content of religious curriculum and its religious teaching against criteria set by Government and further interpreted by Government inspectors from LA and/or Ofsted.
- c) Thirdly, should the provider of a religious education in out-of-school setting not meet the Government’s criteria with respect to its religious education, then the Government would have the sanction powers to remove teachers and/ close the religious education out-of-school provision on principle grounds of ‘extremism’.
“We believe the definition of ‘’extremism’’ which lies at the heart of the regulation of religious education in out-of-school settings is open to abuse due to its vague definition. It allows subjective interpretations by Government via LA and/or Ofsted, who will be making decisions over the registration process or inspection or sanctioning for non-compliance of religious education in out-of-school settings. The term ‘extremism’ is potentially all encompassing, vague and lacks any legal certainty. We note the term ‘extremism’ is a much contested concept even within Parliamentary reports which offered conflicting findings often sensationalised by the media and overstated by some officials over whether ‘extremist’ practices were in fact found in Birmingham Schools. ‘Extremism’ was also a term the Home Secretary, Theresa May, was unable to define when questioned on Radio 4 “Today’s Programme”