An Urgent appeal from Andrea Williams
Ask your MP to speak on behalf of Christian freedom
Parliamentary debate on 'out-of-school' settings on 20th January 2016
MPs will have the opportunity to speak up on behalf of Christian freedom at Parliament on Wednesday (20th January).
Sir Edward Leigh and Fiona Bruce are holding a Westminster Hall debate on the government’s plans to regulate ‘out-of-school education settings’. These proposals could see Christian youth activities inspected and punished.
The debate will take place on Wednesday, 20th January at 9.30am in Westminster Hall and will last for approximately 90 minutes.
The debate will provide a crucial opportunity to engage the government publicly on the proposals. This is also an opportunity to raise the issue among MPs, most of whom are not aware of the dangers posed by the proposed legislation.
Please write to your MP, asking them to attend the debate and speak against the plans.
Please take action today
What is the government planning?
In light of its ‘Counter-Extremism Strategy’, the government has announced plans for the registration and regulation of ‘out-of-school education settings’.
The government completed its call for evidence on the plans this past Monday.
The government is proposing registration and regulation of "intensive education" that takes place in an ‘out-of-school’ context.
An out-of-school setting is any "institution" in England providing children with training, tuition or instruction that is not a school, college, 16 - 19 academy or registered childcare provider. These proposals also exempt home education.
The threshold for "intensive education", which the government proposes to regulate, could be reached where a child attends a particular 'out-of-school' setting for more than six to eight hours in a week.
The government proposes:
- Registration of settings that meet the criteria for “intensive education”.
- Inspection by Ofsted both on a routine basis (a certain proportion of registered settings inspected each year) and in response to specific complaints or concerns.
- Sanctions including individuals being barred from working with children and the closure of premises.
Crucially, the proposals have implications for the content of what is taught in these settings.
"Undesirable teaching, for example teaching which undermines or is incompatible with fundamental British values, or which promotes extremist views" would be prohibited under the proposals.
The government says that the measures are not about "regulating religion", but the 'British values' approach used in the proposals does amount to regulation of Christian teaching and poses a huge challenge to Christian freedom.
Many Christian children and youth activities (as well as vast numbers of other groups) are likely to fall within the scope of these proposals. Christian holiday clubs, camps and festivals could be included. If a child attends one church's events for more than a total of six hours during a week, then the church may be required to register.
Please take action today
Please write to your MP, highlighting the dangers of these proposals and asking them to attend – and consider speaking at – the Westminster Hall debate next week.
You could make some of the following points to your MP:
- The government is casting an exceedingly wide net. Any 'out-of-school' organisation that teaches a “child” under the age of 19 for more than the threshold six hours in a week at any timewould have to register and then be inspected.
- The government uses ill-defined concepts that are slippery and subjective. Decisions as to what constitutes "extremism", “British values”, “undesirable teaching” or “emotional harm” would be wide open to abuse.
- These proposals would hand huge power to public officials, without appropriate safeguards. They would provide a basis for state censorship of biblical teaching that is deemed undesirable.
- There are already people who claim that Christian teaching promotes “hate and fear”. Public officials have already suggested that Christian teaching about marriage could be considered ‘extremist’. There are insufficient safeguards included within these proposals to protect them from these interpretations.
- A range of beneficial activities could be regulated and potentially punished or shut down for teaching ‘undesirable’ content. Other organisations could be forced to close their doors simply because of the increased regulatory burden.
- Health and safety provisions already address the health and safety concerns listed as “prohibited activities”. Current provisions can be enforced where necessary - there is no need for new ones.
- Aside from Sunday schools and other Christian youth activities, numerous other organisations that exist for the good of society could be hurt by these proposals. Sports societies and clubs, children’s choirs, scouting groups, activities camps and other programmes for young people could find themselves regulated and inspected.
Andrea Williams comments:
"Thank you for taking action on this important issue. It is of vital importance that MPs are informed and prompted to take action against these invasive plans.
"Unfortunately, since the approach of the government's ‘Counter-Extremism Strategy’ is fundamentally flawed, we can expect further dangerous proposals.
"We will keep you informed. Please continue to work with us as we challenge both the overall approach and the specific plans that flow from it."