The chief inspector of schools, Amanda Spielman, appeared before MPs on the Education Select Committee on Wednesday morning. The discussions focused largely around Ofsted’s concerns about extremism in unregistered schools and equalities laws.
Here’s a round-up of what she had to say:
- On extremism in unregistered schools:
Spielman said Ofsted did not have the requisite powers to identify links between extremism in unregistered schools and terrorism. Calling for a tougher approach to regulatory enforcement, she pointed out that Ofsted had no powers to gain entry or seize evidence from uncooperative schools, saying “nobody really contemplated there being schools that simply would not want to comply with the law”.
- On Ofsted’s desire for greater powers
She faced questions over Ofsted’s quest for increase powers by Conservative MP Michelle Donelan.
The MP asked if Ofsted were confusing alternative provision with out-of-school settings and asked if Spielman was comfortable with a scenario where “we’re constantly subjected to inspection in our private lives”.
In response she said Ofsted did not want to inspect people’s private lives but stressed we should not give up on working out which settings should be inspected just because determination is difficult.
- On pupils missing from the National Pupil Database
Spielman expressed concern about cases where pupils fall off the NPD from year on year, cautioning that the numbers are “concerningly large and growing”
She also criticised the country’s “permissive” schools system, which does not require registration of children who don’t attend school. She warned that some parents were not keeping children at home but enrolling them in unregistered schools “often with a very particular religious slant”.
- 4. On closure procedures for independent schools
The chief inspector said she was “astonished” to find there was no process to close independent schools where inappropriate reading materials or “squalid conditions” are found.
She said Ofsted has had “more constructive” conversations with the DfE and is hoping to see a “more determined regime in the coming months”.
- On faith schools and equalities law
She said Ofsted had been asked to selectively misapply the equalities laws by some faith schools.
She said some orthodox Jewish schools specifically had “a problem with particular aspects of equalities law, especially the parts around protected characteristics”. Ofsted can’t “selectively disapply the law”, Spielman said, saying there had been similar requests from Muslim schools.