Queen’s Speech should include crackdown on unregulated schools | Education Policy

A planned crackdown on unsafe or unregulated independent schools is expected to be included in next week’s Queen’s Speech, including the threat of jail time and unlimited fines for owners who ignore safeguard concerns.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said it is ready to submit legislation to give the government and Ofsted broader powers to investigate and close private schools in England, with plans to broaden its definition of a school to force more parameters to officially register.

Under those powers, the education secretary could suspend an independent school’s registration if there were “serious safeguarding failings that pose a risk of harm to pupils”.

The suspension could then be enforced through a new criminal offense that could make an owner liable if their school remains open after the suspension.

Diana Barran, the Lords Schools Minister, said: “For too long some children have been able to squeeze through the loopholes of the system, spending most or all of their time during the day in environments that do not meet the required standards of safeguard or quality of teaching. »

Ofsted would also gain new powers to investigate illegal schools and support criminal proceedings against unregistered full-time schools.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said she “highly appreciates” the proposals, which she has supported for several years.

“Thousands of children are currently being educated in unsuitable and unsafe illegal schools, which puts their well-being at risk and deprives them of a proper education,” Spielman said. “I look forward to seeing more details of how our powers to investigate illegal schools will be strengthened, and I hope to see this legislation featured in the Queen’s Speech next week.”

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The new DfE definition means that a facility will need to register as a school if it educates school-aged children for 18 hours or more per week and operates for at least part of that time during school hours. of class.

The change fills a loophole that meant institutions were only required to register as schools if they taught 18 hours a week entirely during school hours.

The DfE said: “Although some faith groups, such as people of the Charedi Jewish faith, may be disproportionately affected by the proposals, the benefits they bring to the quality of children’s education and supervision of protection through regulated activity are of greater importance. ”

Current laws in England allow many establishments to avoid registration as schools, while others that operate as illegal schools have been able to escape punishment and remain open.

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