Government reportedly dropped illegal religious school regulation following Church of England lobbying

26 July, 2017

Justin Welby is reported to have opposed the Government’s proposals

The Government may have dropped its proposals for a crackdown on harmful religious supplementary schools, which would have also covered illegal schools, following pressure from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Church of England, it has been reported.

In November 2015 the Government proposed to tighten the regulation of ‘out-of-school education settings’ in an effort to tackle the problem of religious supplementary schools ‘promoting intolerance’ and failing to encourage children to ‘respect those of other faiths and beliefs’. The proposals were welcomed at the time by Humanists UK, which stated that the move would go a long way towards bringing about the closure of full-time illegal religious schools, many of which pose as supplementary schools to avoid regulation.

In its submission to the consultation, Humanists UK drew particular attention to to the plight of children within the strictly Orthodox Charedi Jewish community, who are subjected to an appallingly limited, insular, and often abusive education within illegal and unregistered religious schools.

The consultation document proposed that any setting providing more than eight hours a week of supplementary education to children would have to register and, should concerns arise, face inspection. It was understood that this threshold was designed in order to exempt the vast majority of Christian Sunday schools from regulation, but to capture the growing number of madrassas and yeshivas known to provide particularly intensive teaching and to espouse fundamentalist or extremist views.  

However, despite the limited extent to which the proposals would affect Christian settings, it has now been reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury ‘spoke to senior members of the government’ to voice his opposition, as did Church Commissioner Caroline Spellman MP. Subsequently, ‘very quickly, and very quietly, the government dropped the idea’, according to the Catholic Herald. Despite the consultation closing more than 18 months ago, the Government is yet to give its formal response, and in the interim has repeatedly told Humanists UK it is still considering the plans.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘Illegal and unregistered religious schools are the part of our education system that fails children more acutely than any other. Introducing even some very light touch regulation of supplementary schools, many of which are known to actually operate as full-time schools, would massively improve the ability of authorities to identify illegal schools and make efforts to safeguard the children within them.

‘It is therefore hugely disappointing to hear it reported that the Church of England, which would be almost entirely unaffected by these proposals, has been lobbying against them. The Archbishop of Canterbury ought to know that the impact of his intervention is to extend the appalling situation in which thousands of children in this country find themselves, so we will be writing to the Government to encourage it to look again.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

Read the Humanists UK response to the consultation:   

Read the full Government proposals for out-of-school settings:

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