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Government drops plan to allow Muslim schools to police themselves

Government plans to give Muslim schools the chance to police themselves have
effectively been dropped.

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 6:51PM BST 21 Jul 2008

Under proposals unveiled earlier this year private Muslim schools were to be
given the chance to carry out their own Ofsted-style inspections.

It was announced a new independent watchdog would be set up to be more
“sensitive” toward Islamic education and the new body would also inspect a
small number of independent Christian schools.

But now Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, has effectively vetoed the plan.

It follows warnings from Ofsted, the official schools inspectorate, that the
move would cause “increased fragmentation” and “works against any consistent
approach to national standards”.

Under present legislation, most state and private schools are directly
inspected by Ofsted.

But the Association of Muslim Schools and the Christian Schools’ Trust
applied to the Government to set up a separate inspectorate for a small
number of private faith schools.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families approved outline plans for
the so-called Bridge Schools’ Inspectorate in January, giving it the power
to inspect about 60 private Muslim schools and 50 Christian schools.

The decision came despite concerns that some private faith schools are
already failing to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.

But in a parliamentary statement, Mr Balls admitted that the narrow focus of
such small watchdogs may undermine public confidence in the education

He said any future inspectorates should be responsible for a minimum of 350
schools to prevent inspectors “becoming over-familiar” with particular types
of school.

Christine Gilbert, head of Ofsted, said: “We believe it would be difficult
for an organisation to form an objective view of the quality of schools
inspected if it dealt with only one type of school and therefore lacked a
broad perspective. ”

However, the changes will not affect the Independent Schools Inspectorate,
which currently vets more than 1,000 leading fee-paying schools, including
Eton and Harrow.

Michael Gove, Tory shadow schools secretary, said: “This is highly
significant and very welcome u-turn by the Government.

“I am pleased that they have taken on board the need to improve the
inspection regime and ensure that certain schools don’t effectively police


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