My Lords, we are taking robust steps to tackle unregistered schools. We are working closely with Ofsted and are pleased that it has agreed to take forward prosecutions in relation to settings operating illegally as unregistered independent schools. We have also consulted on introducing a new system to regulate out-of-school education settings which teach children intensively, and we will intervene and impose sanctions where there are safety or welfare concerns.
I am grateful for the Minister’s reply. He will be aware of the unannounced inspection of the premises of three unregistered schools in Birmingham, where some frankly appalling practices were found, including health and safety issues, safeguarding issues, homophobic and misogynistic material et cetera. First, can he assure us that the advice letter from the chief inspector in which he suggests that there should be an urgent meeting between Ofsted and local authorities to review policies and procedures will be followed through? When that meeting has taken place, can the results be shared with Members so that we can see that this matter is being put right? Secondly, can the Minister indicate how we should deal with Sunday schools and communion classes, which may fall into the category of unregistered provision?
On the first point, I assure noble Lords that we are working very closely with Ofsted and I would be very happy to write to the noble Lord about it. We do not propose to regulate institutions such as Sunday schools and one-off residential settings which teach children for a short period every week. We are looking specifically at places where children receive intensive education, which we think will be defined as more than six to eight hours a week.
My Lords, are the Government looking at madrassahs that teach fewer than 12 children? I gather that 12 is the number which means that some inspection can be done but, as the noble Lord will know, many madrassahs have fewer than 12 children.
We are not specifically looking at madrassahs but we will be covering institutions such as those to which the noble and learned Baroness referred in our call for evidence, which has just closed. We will consider all this in the legislation we propose to bring forward in relation to institutions teaching above six to eight hours a week.
My Lords, my noble friend is looking for bad conduct. Does he agree that he is also seeing a good deal of very valuable instruction given to children who need to be integrated into our society and are handicapped in many ways because of their ethnic or geographic origin?
We are concerned about the point my noble friend makes and about isolated communities, which is an area that Louise Casey has been asked to look at to see how we can improve integration. We are very active in our whole-school approach to making sure that children are brought up to understand enough about the different religions and beliefs in this country that they can be prepared for life in modern Britain.
Will my noble friend ensure that independent schools that intend to become members of one of the independent schools associations do not have registration procedures that are unduly burdensome, while at the same time providing for the full inspection that is required?
I assure my noble friend that we have no plans to change the regime for full-time education. We have been consulting on part-time education of more than six to eight hours a week.
We are concerned about some institutions where the rules on home education may be exploited and we are looking at that. But we have no plans to alter parents’ rights to educate their children at home.