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Ofsted Taskforce Finds Over 100 Schools Suspected To Be Operating Illegally

Letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw to Nicky Morgan expresses concerns over 'harm and indoctrination' risks of unregistered schools – and points to home education laws as possible factor in their growth

  • Ofsted Taskforce Finds Over 100 Schools Suspected To Be Operating Illegally

According to Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw, inspectors and government officials have identified over a hundred schools in England suspected to be unregistered and operating illegally.

The observation was made in a letter from the Chief Inspector to the Secretary of State for Education [PDF], in which Wilshaw writes of the progress made since January this year by an Ofsted taskforce set up to investigate and pursue those suspected of operating illegal schools:

“Inspectors, working closely with DfE officials, have identified more than 100 suspected unregistered schools across the country…the evidence that they have gathered so far in this short period firmly reinforces my belief that there are many more children hidden away from the view of the authorities in unregistered schools across the country than previously thought.”

The letter notes that seven warning notices have been issued so far by inspectors to suspected schools illegal schools in London, Birmingham, Luton, Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent. It also highlights three particular causes of ‘deep alarm’ among inspectors during school visits – serious fire hazards, unsafe and unhygienic premises, and a lack of checks and clearance to work with children given to staff and volunteers.

Wilshaw goes on to note that the cases uncovered so far are likely to represent just a ‘small proportion’ of those schools currently operating across the country, and suggests that unregistered operators may be taking advantage of laws relating to home education:

“Evidence inspectors have gathered over recent weeks has also reaffirmed my belief that there is a clear link between the growth of unregistered schools and the steep rise in the number of children recorded as being home educated in England over the past few years.

“...Many [operators] are charging parents thousands of pounds to send their children to these unregistered schools.”

The letter concludes with an appeal for local authorities to share intelligence with other agencies, including Ofsted; confirmation that Ofsted inspectors will notify LAs of settings found to be unsafe and unsuitable, and the hope that Ofsted and government officials can work together on strengthening the laws regarding home education arrangements.

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