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Schools: Extremist Groups

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 5 January 2010

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Ofsted routinely considers links between schools and extremist groups in its inspection reports. [HL587]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what training Ofsted inspectors receive to identify links between schools and extremist groups. [HL588]

These are matters for Ofsted. HM Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert, has written to the noble Baroness and copies of her replies have been placed in the Library.

Letter from HM Chief Inspector, Ofsted, Christine Gilbert, to Baroness Neville-Jones, dated 15 December 2009.

Your recent Parliamentary Question [HL587] has been passed to me, as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, for response.

Ofsted inspects maintained schools against a specific framework and evaluation schedule, and against grade descriptors for all graded judgments. Inspectors make a judgment about the effectiveness with which a school promotes community cohesion. Inspectors are asked to evaluate the extent to which the school has developed an understanding of the religious, ethnic and socio-economic characteristics of its community in a local, national and global context. There is no specific judgment made relating to links between schools and extremist groups.

Ofsted inspection reports on independent schools assess whether or not the schools are meeting statutory standards. From time to time both Ofsted and the DCSF receive information from a range of sources that might indicate concerns about a school having links with some form of extremism, and the impact this could have on the standard of education provided within the school. In these circumstances the DCSF might commission Ofsted to undertake additional, targeted work to examine whether an independent school is continuing to meet the statutory standards.

Were the DCSF or Ofsted to receive information to indicate concerns about extremist influences impacting on the standard of education or well-being of pupils in any school, the DCSF could commission Ofsted to undertake an additional inspection.

A copy of this reply has been sent to Vernon Coaker MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners and will be placed in the library of both Houses.

Letter from HM Chief Inspector, Ofsted, Christine Gilbert, to Baroness Neville-Jones, dated 15 December 2009.

Your recent Parliamentary Question [HL588] has been passed to me, as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, for response.

In relation to maintained schools, Ofsted has provided extensive training in matters relating to the judgement that inspectors make during inspections about the effectiveness with which a school promotes community cohesion. This does not, however, specifically include training for inspectors to identify links between schools and extremist groups.

In relation to independent schools, Ofsted provides extensive training to ensure inspectors are able to make consistent and high-quality judgements. When the inspection is of a faith or specialist school, inspectors with specialist knowledge of the relevant faith or specialism are deployed and, where relevant, inspectors with specific language skills are used. Training does not, however, specifically include training for inspectors to identify links between schools and extremist groups.

A copy of this reply has been sent to Vernon Coaker MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners and will be placed in the library of both Houses.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many schools have (a) been investigated, (b) had remedial action or special measures put in place, and (c) closed down because of links to (1) proscribed, and (2) extremist, groups in each year since 1997. [HL589]

Any investigation in relation to alleged criminal activity is a matter for the police.

Ofsted carries out regular inspections of maintained schools under Section 5 of the Education Act 2005. All independent schools are inspected on a three-yearly basis against the independent school standards for independent schools under Section 162A of the Education Act 2002.

In the case of maintained schools, an inspection may occur where there are concerns about the education and well-being of pupils. A school judged inadequate is subject to monitoring and intervention measures which could result in closure. In the case of independent schools, emergency inspection visits can be commissioned by the DCSF 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.

There have been no Ofsted inspections relating to links between independent or maintained schools and proscribed organisations.

Two independent schools were inspected by Ofsted in 2007 to ensure they were meeting the independent school standards following allegations of links with Hizb-ut-Tahrir.