Sunday schools, church groups, choirs and Scout troops will all be swept up by broad surveillance proposals designed to confront Islamic radicalism in teaching institutions.
New Ofsted rules designed to monitor any organisation which interacts with a child for more than six hours a week means traditional church gatherings along with community groups are liable for inspection by government authorities.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb has said the new rules would cover all activities taking place, meaning every church that offers several activities for youngsters, including Scouts, choirs or youth clubs, would need to be registered with the government and be prepared for their activities to be monitored by the state.
Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw revealed his inspectors would use powers intended to crack down on Muslim madrassas run by extremists who might be seeking to groom pupils for radical activities to also regulate Christian Sunday schools. Last week a cross-party group of more than 20 MPs attacked the plans during a Westminster Hall debate, according to the Sunday Express.
Senior Conservative Edward Leigh said: “Why does tackling abuse and radicalisation in a very tiny number of madrassas mean every voluntary group in England that instructs children for six hours or more has to register with the state?”
The former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said the “scheme for spotting jihadists” was going to impose state regulation on groups teaching arts, music and sport, “activities which jihadists are not particularly known to engage in”.
He added: “Members will be thinking of the many Scout troops, sports teams, youth groups, churches, conservation groups and after-school clubs in their constituencies.
“They will have to register, even though we can say with a high degree of certainty that none of them are poisoning young minds.
“To top it all, the scheme will not make children any safer from extremism, it will just tie up non-jihadi groups in red tape.
“The idea that jihadists will take time to register is incredibly naive. Islamist extremists regard our laws as a total irrelevance.”
David Cameron tried to block opposition by claiming schools inspectors will not be allowed to raid Sunday schools as the powers would only “regulate institutions teaching children for a short period each week”. Mr. Gibb was equally firm in his belief that the measures would balance the need for encouraging out-of school education with the desire to keep children safe.
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