Former Ofsted chief to speak at NSS conference

Posted: Thu, 6th Jun 2024

"Muscular liberalism" advocate Amanda Spielman to speak about religious interference in education at Secularism 2024.

The former head of school inspectorate Ofsted will speak at the National Secular Society's conference this year, to discuss the challenges religion can pose in education.

Amanda Spielman, who was Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills from 2017 to 2023, will address the Secularism 2024 conference on 19th October at Covent Garden in London. The theme of this year's conference is "Protecting liberal values".

Spielman will speak about her experiences working for the best interests of schoolchildren, in the face of often extreme pressure from religious groups.

Since becoming head of Ofsted, Spielman advocated for "muscular liberalism", in recognition that some schools, "under the pretext of religious belief", use education "to narrow young people's horizons, to isolate and segregate, and in the worst cases to indoctrinate impressionable minds with extremist ideology".

Her concerns include sex segregation at faith schools, girls being forced to wear hijab to school, and religious attacks on inclusive relationships and sex education.

In 2018 she backed St Stephen's Primary School in London for restricting hijabs and ritual fasting for young children.

For taking on religious extremism in schools, Spielman received accusations of 'Islamophobia', threatening emails  and anti-semitic abuse from a "mixture of Islamic extremists and the hard left".

Nevertheless, she continued to intervene in schools where religious fundamentalism has threatened children's education and welfare, including cracking down on unregistered schools. She has also spoken out against plans to allow all faith schools to select 100% of their pupils based on religion.

Other speakers include journalist Joan Smith, Liberal Democrat peer Paul Scriven, and writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik.

Secularism 2024: Protecting Liberal Values

Saturday 19th October 2024 09:00 - 17:00 | Grand Connaught Rooms, Covent Garden, London

Tags: Extremism, School admissions, Unregistered schools, Women