A small victory in the battle against the promotion of liberal values has been won, as the British government has backed away from Ofsted’s persecution of faith schools in the face of legal challenges and a letter writing campaign. According to new guidance issued, schools will be able to teach respect for people, rather than actively promoting alternative beliefs.
Since September when new guidelines came in, dozens of faith schools have been downgraded by Ofsted inspectors who have been promoting a liberal agenda under the guise of ensuring that schools teach ‘British values’. In November, Breitbart London reported on a number of faith schools facing downgrades, and even possible closure unless they actively promoted gay rights and other faiths.
At the time, the Christian Institute highlighted the fact that in some cases schools were being forced to change their curricula in order to comply with the Equalities Act, despite the Act exempting school curricula from the provisions of the law. The Institute threatened Ofsted with legal action.
The Institute’s supporters also enacted a letter writing campaign to express concern that religious freedoms were being trampled in the name of equality.
The action has paid off, as new guidance has now been issued which requires schools to promote respect for people, rather than respect for alternate beliefs; a change described by Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute as an “important distinction”. He hoped that it would influence the way in which inspectors interpreted the guidelines.
The guidance also states that schools are not required to “promote alternative lifestyles or same sex marriage” – a matter that had become a sticking point for faith schools, as some pupils were reporting harassment by inspectors determined to teach pupils that “woman might choose to live with another woman and a man could choose to live with a man, it’s up to them” during inspections.
Furthermore, the safeguards included within the new guidance make it clear that school curricula are not subject to the Equalities Act.
However, there is still concern that Ofsted will simply carry on with their liberalising agenda regardless. Writing in the Spectator, broadcaster Dennis Sewell has warned that inspectors are taking a “liberal-intolerant approach” toward the promotion of British values in schools.
Sewell commented: “One of those British values is supposed to be ‘tolerance’, and implicit in the word ‘tolerance’ is that one should not have to like or approve what is tolerated. Yet we have already seen a school criticised for not ensuring different sexual orientations are ‘valued’, which means something else entirely.”
Although he welcomed the new draft guidelines for inspectors, he warned that, if Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted “wants to prevent Ofsted being held up to public ridicule every week in the tabloids for ‘political correctness gone mad’, this time he will have to make sure his inspectors do what he says.”
Mr Calvert has also said that Ofsted is simply not following guidelines in many cases. Consequently, the Christian Institute is “actively seeking to bring a test case against Ofsted where it has acted outside its remit, without proper regard for religious freedom,” he said.