Gavin Williamson promises crackdown on illegal schools

By Richard Guttridge | Staffordshire | Education | Published:

Gavin Williamson has pledged to crackdown on "dangerous" illegal schools which the Government says could expose children to "risky practices or extreme influences".

Ofsted will be given an extra £400,000 to help investigate unregistered independent schools and gather evidence for prosecution.

Education Secretary Mr Williamson, the MP for South Staffordshire, said the Department for Education (DfE) was committed to bringing in tough new laws to beef up Ofsted and strengthen the watchdog’s powers.

Thousands of children are believed to be being taught in unregistered settings. Officials say these children are potentially at risk because there is no formal external oversight of safeguarding, health and safety or the quality of education provided.

A joint DfE and Ofsted team has stopped 72 illegal schools operating unlawfully, resulting in three successful prosecutions and it is hoped the extra cash will help continue this work.

Mr Williamson said: "Unregistered schools present a serious risk to children. They often do not offer the kind of balanced, informative curriculum all schools should, and can expose pupils to dangerous and extreme influences.

"That’s why I am determined that anyone found to be running one faces the full force of the law. This extra investment in Ofsted will build on the £3 million we have already committed – and send a very strong message to illegal schools which continue to operate.

"We remain committed to strengthening Ofsted’s powers to make sure they can shut down illegal settings, and helping legitimate settings to make sure they know the rules."

A setting which provides full-time education to at least five children of compulsory school age must apply to register as a school. It must operate from a building, and offer a curriculum that includes maths and English.

The Department for Education (DfE) has issued guidance to say that 18 hours or more a week amounts to full-time education. It says some providers seek to get around the rules by operating for 17 hours and 50 minutes per week, allowing them to "operate on the cusp of the law and avoid scrutiny".

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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