Government to announce illegal schools bill in Queen’s speech

9 May, 2022

The Government has confirmed that a Bill to shut down illegal ‘unregistered’ schools will be included in tomorrow’s Queen’s speech, marking a major victory for Humanists UK’s long running campaign. The forthcoming Schools Bill will strengthen the definitions around such settings, give Ofsted more powers to crack down on unregistered schools, and establish a compulsory register for home educated children. All of these measures will help to close the loopholes that have prevented authorities taking action until now.

The Bill is important because a significant number of unregistered, illegal schools are operating throughout England, many of which are religious, and at least 6,000 children have been identified as in these schools. In many cases, children are made to study religious texts for up to 12 hours a day, they are often exposed to extremist literature, and many schools operate in environments that are dirty and unsafe. Due to loopholes in the law – for example around the definition of ‘full time’ education, and the lack of a home education register – Ofsted’s hands are currently tied and they have been unable to seize evidence and shut them down.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Robert Cann said:

‘We’re delighted to see these proposals at long last. Since 2014 we have been leading the campaign to shut down illegal schools, many of which are religious in nature. But Ofsted’s hands were tied. These plans should finally see the authorities given the tools they need to take enforcement action. When Parliament returns this week, the next phase of our campaign can begin: to get this into law.’

Closing illegal schools – how Humanists UK has led the campaign


  • Humanists UK first establishes contact with pupils who attended unregistered Jewish schools operating in Hackney around the time that two appear on Dispatches. Humanists UK begins arranging media coverage with the pupils and organises an All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group meeting with them.
  • DfE instructs Ofsted to investigate a number of settings they suspect are operating as illegal schools.


  • In response to the growing media coverage Humanists UK secures, Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw writes a series of advice notes to Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan outlining his grave concerns about illegal schools.
  • Humanists UK’s work on illegal yeshivas is highlighted in an exposé on BBC London News.
  • Government publishes proposals to crack down on religious supplementary schools, which would incidentally close the loopholes around illegal schools.




  • A joint BBC/Humanists UK investigation on abuse at illegal religious schools airs on BBC News at Six and Ten. 
  • Government publishes its Integrated Communities Strategy green paper. This includes a commitment to crack down on illegal schools but formally scraps plans to regulate out of school settings. Government also launches a public consultation on elective home education, including draft guidance for local authorities and parents.
  • First successful conviction of the proprietors of an illegal religious school as Ofsted reiterates calls for tougher powers.



  • New figures show that Ofsted has investigated more than 100 suspected illegal faith schools since the Unregistered Schools Team was established. Hackney Council complains that ‘no real progress has been made’ on the issue, as Ofsted voices further frustration on Government inaction.
  • DfE consultation on proposals to tighten the law on illegal schools is launched. Humanists UK urges swift action but, in May, consultation is paused due to the pandemic. It is relaunched in October. The Government response finally appears in May 2022.
  • Third successful prosecution against the proprietor of an illegal religious school.
  • Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman gives evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. She highlights ‘astonishing’ issues with safeguarding in unregistered settings. In evidence to the same inquiry, Hackney Child Safeguarding Commissioner Jim Gamble says it is impossible to map the full extent of the problem unregistered schools pose due to lack of engagement with safeguarding.
  • Chair of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon publicly gives his support for a home education register as the Committee plan an inquiry into elective home education.




For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read more about our work on illegal faith schools.

Read the Government’s response to the consultation on regulating independent educational institutions.

Read our consultation response from May 2020.

Read our article on the proposals for a register of home educated children.

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