NSS tells government not to halt plans to stop unregistered schools

Posted: Fri, 23rd Sep 2022

NSS tells government not to halt plans to stop unregistered schools

The National Secular Society has urged the education secretary not to abandon plans to stop children being denied a secular education in unregistered schools.

The government's flagship Schools Bill is reportedly "under review" following the cancellation of its third reading in the House of Lords, which had been due to take place earlier this month.

Concerns regarding the bill's progress had been raised following the delay, as well as by a leaked letter apparently sent by a peer to Charedi Jewish community activist Asher Gratt, which claimed it had been "scrapped".

The NSS has long warned of the use of unregistered schools by religious groups to evade scrutiny of their activities. The educational provision at such schools is frequently limited to exclusively religious studies, which both deprives children of a full education and fails to prepare them for life in wider society.

In a letter to Kit Malthouse MP, the Secretary of State for Education, NSS chief executive Stephen Evans sought assurance that the government would not renege on its commitment to bring currently unregistered educational settings into the regulatory system, one of the bill's key elements.

The NSS had welcomed provisions contained within the bill intended to protect children from being illegally educated in such settings, such as increased powers of inspection for education watchdog Ofsted and compulsory 'children not in school' registers.

The letter reiterates the importance of such measures, noting the poor conditions and safeguarding risks which have been documented at numerous unregistered schools, as well as the repeated efforts of religious groups involved in such establishments to disguise their activities and mislead authorities.

The NSS also urged the education secretary to reject the "alarmist rhetoric" of Charedi leaders who have claimed the bill is inconsistent with their freedom of religion and poses an existential threat to Jewish identity – a claim that has been rejected by many within the Jewish community.

NSS: Failure to tackle unregistered schools would be a "betrayal"

Stephen Evans said all children should be entitled to receive "a safe and suitable education that allows them to reach their potential and live a fulfilled life, regardless of their background".

He added: "Freedom to practice a religion does not give groups the right to deprive children of a decent education. Failure to pursue legislation to tackle the scourge of unregistered schools would be a betrayal of young people's rights to education."

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

What the NSS stands for

The Secular Charter outlines 10 principles that guide us as we campaign for a secular democracy which safeguards all citizens' rights to freedom of and from religion.

Tags: Unregistered schools