Children at risk in illegally operating schools, Ofsted admits

4 December, 2018

Humanists UK has called for tougher powers for the education regulator, Ofsted, so it can shut down illegal schools where children are at risk.

In its annual report released today, Ofsted admitted that ‘too often we find that even where we have identified a setting that is putting children at risk, current legislation is too weak to allow us to close it down or prosecute the people running it.’

Ofsted highlighted cases of examples of religious schooling including yeshivas (Jewish teaching institutions) and madrasas (Islamic teaching institutions) which are providing religious instruction to young people for up to six days a week from early in the morning to late into the evening, meaning students were not attending legally registered schools.

Ofsted added, ‘Many institutions have learnt how to operate on the cusp of the law by exploiting loopholes in definitions of education. In these cases, it is perverse that the narrower the curriculum provision, the safer such a setting is from prosecution.”

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham said: ‘It is truly alarming that Ofsted openly admits that they have uncovered areas where children are at risk and yet they are effectively unable to shut down these institutions. The Department for Education must urgently give Ofsted the powers to remove children from harm and prosecute those in charge of running any illegal school.’

Despite the first successful prosecution of the proprietors of an unregistered Muslim school in October, the Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman has said that Ofsted lacks sufficient powers to put illegal operations out of business, adding that the legal inability to seize evidence during inspections means the inspectorate is effectively ‘tackling the problem with one hand tied behind [its] back’.

Last month Spielman wrote to the Secretary of State for Education requesting additional powers to monitor the way some private schools are inspected. Spielman said that for three consecutive years, the DfE has given Ofsted insufficient access to the activities of these private inspectorates.


For more information, contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at  or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read our previous news item on Ofsted here:

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At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.