Thousands of British school children are being put at risk in unregistered religious centres and schools, the new chief inspector warns.
Up to 6,000 pupils could be in danger, and the warning comes as one former pupil claims his teachers caned him on an “almost daily basis”.
Amanda Spielman, head of the school’s inspectorate, Ofsted, called this weekend for new laws and powers to protect children.
“It is clear that weaknesses in current legislation allow some organisations to teach school-aged children religious texts full time… and avoid proper scrutiny,” Ms. Spielman told The Sunday Times.
“Since January 2016 my inspectors have visited numerous establishments that they believe should be registered as schools. The fact that such places are able to operate and remain unregistered leaves pupils at risk.”
It is estimated that up to 6,000 pupils are taught in 286 unregistered centres that inspectors have identified in England over the past 18 months.
Ofsted has recommended the schools for prosecution but no cases have come to court, although some have closed their doors.
Fewer than half have been inspected, 36 have been issued warnings, and the inspectors have been unable to get access to the rest, The Sunday Times reported.
“We will do everything we can to make sure they comply with the law or are closed. But action is also needed to protect the children who attend these places,” Ms. Spielman added.
The Department for Education said: “We have given Ofsted resources to step up investigations, identify them and work with us to take whatever action is required, including closing the school or working with the police and Crown Prosecution Service as necessary.
“There are already powers in place for local authorities and the police to safeguard children and intervene where they are not receiving a suitable education. We will support them in using these powers.”