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Government defiant on Sunday school regulation despite 18,000 strong consultation

Fri 13 Jan 2017
By Antony Bushfield

The government has said it intends to push ahead with plans that will force many Sunday schools and Bible study groups to register with Ofsted.

Despite fierce opposition from all elements of the church, one year after ministers launched a consultation on "out-of-school educational settings" they have signalled they will not scrap the bill.

Under the plans any group that works with children for more than six hours a week will be forced to sign up to a new register to counter extremism.

In July 2016 a government source told Sunday newspapers that Downing Street was going to ditch the proposals. But six months on and no official announcement has been made.

 

In the House of Lords this week Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, was given a prime opportunity to allay the fears of the church.

Instead he choose to signal that the government would push ahead with the plans which many claim amount to state interference in the church.

The minister told peers there had been 18,000 responses to the government's consultation on the issue.

"We are considering them carefully," he said. "We want a system that regulates out-of-school settings and works effectively, but is not overly burdensome, because we know that many of these settings are small and staffed by volunteers."

That showed a "lack of a clear response from the government," according to the Evangelical Alliance.

Head of public policy Simon McCrossan said: "It is not a matter of tweaking the current proposals - they need to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch.

"These plans could lead the way to a register of Sunday schools, and making the government the arbiter of what doctrine is or isn't desirable.

"Instead the government need to ensure freedom of religion is at the heart of their plans because it is a key British value. It is currently an after-thought at best."


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