A new report from Policy Exchange recommends reforms to faith schools to prevent infiltration from extremists.
It concludes that Britain’s education system, including OfSted and the Department for Education, is currently not equipped to meet such challenges. The report says:
- "Current due diligence checks are piecemeal, partial and lack in-depth expertise;
- The Coalition Government’s policy of opening up the education system to new academies and free schools programmes could be exploited unless urgent measures are taken to counter extremist influence;
- Britain lags behind other liberal European democracies in addressing these problems in schools."
- "Current, inadequate counter-extremism mechanisms and due diligence checks, especially on new schools providers and bodies, should be replaced by a centralised and dedicated Due Diligence Unit (DDU).
- The DDU should be based within the Department for Education and be accountable directly to the Secretary of State. This would recruit staff with relevant skills from across the public sector and become a centre of expertise. The DDU should train Ofsted inspectors and other stakeholders in how to monitor schools.
- Those seeking to set up new schools – including parents, charities, governors, companies and senior management – should be assessed both in the start up phase and thereafter.
- New primary and secondary legislation should be passed to make it harder for extremists to engage in political indoctrination of children. Existing legislation should be better enforced.
- A commitment to core British values of democracy, tolerance and patriotism should be part of the ethos of every school and incorporated into new contracts for academies and free school providers.
- Narrative British history should be a compulsory part the school curriculum.
- The smaller independent inspectorates with an explicitly confessional mission should be rolled into Ofsted to ensure both quality and uniformity of provision.
The Government should consider applying this regime to unregulated weekend schools. Today's Daily Mail splashes with news that Saudi-funded schools in Britain are radicalising young children:
"Children in Britain are being taught brutal Sharia law punishments, including how to hack off a criminal’s hand or foot. So-called ‘weekend schools’ for Muslim pupils as young as six also teach that the penalty for gay sex is execution and that ‘Zionists’ are plotting to take over the world for the Jews. One set textbook challenges youngsters to list the ‘reprehensible’ qualities of Jews."
The Mail report is a preview of a BBC Panorama programme due to be broadcast at 8.30pm tonight on BBC1.