Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Inspectors on the Hunt for Extremism: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Inspectors on the Hunt for Extremism: News

Article excerpt

Private schools in England have been monitored for radicalisation.

School inspectors in England have been ordered by the government to carry out emergency inspections of private schools amid fears that they are fostering religious extremism, TES has learned.

A "small proportion" of the 50 emergency inspections carried out over the past 12 months relate to concerns over the "spiritual" and "moral" development of students, inspectorate Ofsted said.

Ofsted and the Department for Education refused to disclose details of exactly how many schools had been inspected or the outcomes of the inspections. They also refused to confirm the types of schools that had come under emergency scrutiny, although it is believed that they include private Muslim schools.

The news comes at a time of heightened religious tension after the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, southeast London, last month. The suspects in the attack are believed to have links to Islamic extremism.

A task force has been convened by Prime Minister David Cameron to tackle extremism in the wake of the killing. Education secretary Michael Gove and schools minister David Laws have been asked to look at how to confront extremist views in schools.

The issue of radicalisation of young people has been raised around the world after the Woolwich attack and the bombing of the Boston marathon in the US in April. Both attacks featured "home-grown" suspects who had attended mainstream schools.

Ofsted told TES that over the past year it had carried out about 50 emergency inspections of private schools "at the request of the Department for Education".

"The majority were related to health and safety issues," an Ofsted spokeswoman said. "A small proportion would have been visits associated with concerns about the delivery of the curriculum in relation to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils." These cases refer to extremism, Ofsted confirmed.

A Home Office report on the government's Prevent anti-terrorism strategy, published two years ago, said there was no evidence to suggest that there had been a "systematic attempt to recruit or radicalise people in full- time education in this country, either in the state or independent (private) sector".

But the report added that it was known that "some people who are supportive of terrorist groups and ideologies have sought and sometimes gained positions in schools". …

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