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Out-of-school Education

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 26 April 2018

4. To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Church of England has made of the Government response to the consultation on out-of-school education settings. (904966)

Following the publication of the findings from the Department for Education’s consultation on out-of-school settings, I am pleased to say that the Government have sharpened their focus on tackling risks associated with unregulated out-of-school settings and have come up with proposals that are far more proportionate for use. The Church of England has welcomed this.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that the Government combat radicalisation, but in a way that does not mean the state encroaching on the realm of religion or crossing the Rubicon in a way that could one day lead to the assessment of Sunday schools and the like?

Of course, the Church of England completely underlines the importance of tackling radicalisation, but the original proposals might have caught education in out-of-school settings such as Sunday schools, where teachers are subject to Criminal Records Bureau checks—as everybody in this place who has ever taught in one will know—and domestic premises used to teach children out of school have to be inspected too. The new proposals are proportionate to use and have been welcomed by the Church of England.

The right hon. Lady knows that I have been a champion of forest schools and out-of-school education with the John Clare Trust over many years. More worrying is out-of-school education in foreign parts. Many churches support orphanages around the world, but very often they are not orphanages and are not for orphans, but are used in child trafficking. Many churches support these so-called orphanages, so will she look into that?

The hon. Gentleman raises a serious point. I heard the broadcast of the “Sunday” programme about an Australian Senator who is pioneering an amendment to Australia’s modern-day slavery legislation to ensure that the whole world wises up to the risks associated with donating to orphanages that might be a scam or a front for children who are subsequently trafficked, or certainly put at risk. All of us need to be aware in our dealings with our constituents and their churches of the need to look carefully at where those resources go and how they are used.