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Schools: Radicalism

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 8 April 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) on how many occasions Ofsted undertook an additional school inspection in response to concerns about the effect of possible links with extremism on the standard of education provided in a school in the last five years; and who is responsible for the decision to undertake such an inspection; (325140)

(2) on what occasions (a) Ofsted and (b) his Department has received information from each source on possible links between a school and extremism in the last 10 years; and what steps were taken in response to that information on each occasion;

(3) on what statutory basis Ofsted undertakes an additional or targeted inspection in response to concerns about the effect of possible links with extremism on the standard of education provided in a school; and what the (a) duration and (b) remit is of such inspections;

(4) what (a) guidance and (b) criteria are used by Ofsted to determine whether to undertake an additional inspection in response to concerns about the effect of possible links with extremism on the standard of education provided in a school;

(5) what definition Ofsted uses of extremism in assessing information on possible links between schools and extremism; and what criteria it uses to classify a school as having links with extremism.

[holding answer 30 March 2010]: Ofsted is required to carry out regular inspections of all maintained schools under section 5 of the Education Act 2005. All independent schools are inspected regularly against the standards for independent schools under s. 162A of the Education Act 2002.

In addition, the Secretary of State may require Ofsted to inspect a school outside of the routine programme of inspections under section 8(1) of the Education Act 2005 and section 162A of the Education Act 2002.

Section 8(2) of the Education Act 2002 enables the chief inspector to inspect a maintained school where she is not otherwise required to do so, including in response to a parental complaint.

In the case of independent schools, additional inspection visits can be commissioned by the Department if there is evidence that a school might not be meeting any of the independent school standards including concerns about the quality of education or procedures for safeguarding children. Any remedial action or deregistration would take place on the basis that one or more standard had not been met. If there was evidence of that the law may have breached, Ofsted would liaise with the police and other authorities as appropriate.

The duration and focus of an additional inspection depends on the individual circumstances but must relate to Ofsted's remit and the legal requirements relating to maintained or independent schools. There is no statutory definition of extremism or extremist organisations other than those proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. Therefore neither Ofsted nor DCSF are able to keep systematic central records of allegations about extremism, nor of alleged links between schools and extremist organisations.

Independent schools are inspected against regulatory standards which include a standard governing the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils. This requires independent schools to enable pupils to distinguish right from wrong and respect the law and assist pupils to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions.

Routine inspections of maintained schools include an assessment of the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils and the school's contribution to promoting community cohesion and the well-being of all of their pupils.

In the last three years Ofsted has conducted inspection work following allegations made in the press about extremism affecting the quality of education at the two schools belonging to the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation and at King Fahad School.