U.K. Government Threatens to Shut Down Religious Schools For Not Promoting Tolerance Aggressively Enough


The government body responsible for school inspections in the U.K. (Ofsted) has warned an independent Christian school that it risks being downgraded, and ultimately closed, for failing to meet new "British values" requirements.

The new requirements were introduced in June, following a "Trojan Horse scandal" involving the alleged infiltration of Islamic extremists in a number of Birmingham schools. The requirements attempt to combat extremism by promoting "British values" such as individual liberty, tolerance, and diversity. However, it now appears they are being used to interfere with the faith-based ethos of British private schools. From The Telegraph:

New rules intended to combat extremism are already having "disturbing consequences" for religious schools and forcing Ofsted inspectors to act in a way which undermines their ethos…

In the latest case inspectors are understood to have warned the head that the school, which was previously rated as "good," that it would be downgraded to "adequate" for failing to meet standards requiring it to "actively promote" harmony between different faiths because it had failed to bring in representatives from other religions.

They warned that unless the school could demonstrate how it was going to meet the new requirements there would be a further full inspection which could ultimately lead to it being closed.

This is not just a problem faced by Christian schools. Again from The Telegraph:

It follows complaints from orthodox Jewish schools about recent inspections in which girls from strict traditional backgrounds were allegedly asked whether they were being taught enough about lesbianism, whether they had boyfriends and if they knew where babies came from.

Promoting tolerance and diversity is a noble goal for any education system. But the top-down imposition of these values by the British government is a clear infringement on people's right to choose how their children are educated. The very existence of a government body responsible for inspecting and regulating private schools assumes that bureaucrats should be empowered to overrule parents, a troubling implication considering the government's track record of running schools into the ground.

As debate ramps up over the Common Core education standards, Americans should watch closely what can happen when control over schools is handed over to a centralized authority.