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.