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New powers to close illegal schools announced

Unsafe, illegal schools will be closed under new government powers, the Department of Education (DfE) has announced.

The DfE said its work on closing unsafe independent schools has so far been “slow”.

Under the new powers, Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi could suspend the registration of an independent school if there are “serious safety deficiencies that pose a risk to students”.

The DfE said this would allow “quick action” against unsafe illegal schools, with suspension enforced by a new offense that would see the school’s owner held accountable if they left the school open before it was registered.

Ofsted’s powers to investigate illegal schools would also be strengthened so that the Inspectorate could assist in prosecuting illegal unregistered full-time schools.

The reforms announced following a consultation on the subject will require all schools to register for school-age students who are open at least part of the time during school hours for at least 18 hours a week.

Four in 10 respondents to the consultation – 42% – expressed concern that students in unregistered schools receive a narrow religious curriculum, and 72% said all schools should be registered because education should be regulated and schools should be accountable.

The response to the consultation said certain faith groups, such as the Jewish Haredi faith, “may be disproportionately affected by the proposals, the benefits they bring to the quality of children’s education and the provision of oversight of the protection afforded by the regulated activities are of greater importance”.

Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted, said: “I warmly welcome the proposals put forward by the Department for Education today, which I have been advocating for several years.

“Many thousands of children are currently being educated in unsuitable and unsafe illegal schools that are jeopardizing their well-being and denying them an adequate education.

“These important changes will make it easier Ofsted to prevent places like this from operating so we can be sure all children are safe and getting the good education they deserve.

“I look forward to hearing more details on how our powers to investigate illegal schools will be strengthened and hope to see this legislation tabled in the Queen’s speech next week.”

School Minister Baroness Barran said: “For too long some children have been able to fall through loopholes in the system and spend most or all of their daytime hours in environments that fail to meet the required standards of protection or quality of education.

“We will now proceed with our stricter requirements for entities registering as schools and adhering to the standards for independent schools, and with extended powers for Ofsted to investigate where wrongdoing is suspected.

“Providers of these types of facilities should be on their guard – we will not stand by as they shirk their responsibility to provide all children with a quality education in an environment where they feel safe, valued and cared for.”

School Minister Robin Walker said: “The best place for a child to learn is in the classroom with inspiring teachers and we know that the higher a child’s achievement, the higher their school attendance is likely to have been.

“That’s why increasing school attendance is at the heart of our plans to ensure every child gets the best possible education, no matter where in the country they live.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/dfe-nadhim-zahawi-robin-walker-jewish-amanda-spielman-b2073094.html New powers to close illegal schools announced

Bobby Allyn

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