Ofsted finds more than 100 illegal schools in England

Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of Ofsted, has warned that investigations have found over 100 illegal schools operating in England, more than previously thought.

The news comes after Wilshaw announced a crackdown on illegal and unregistered schools, with the investigation revealing the majority of such schools were Islamic or Jewish. Seven warning notices have been issued to schools in London, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Luton, and Stroke-on-Trent.

The DfE has warned that any school offering 20 hours of lessons per week must be registered with the DfE, local authorities and supervised by Ofsted inspectors.

In a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Wilshaw outlined that a team of seven experienced Ofsted inspectors working closely with DfE officials had identified over 100 unregistered schools.

The letter said: “The evidence they have gathered so far during 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.”

During the visits, 350 children were found on the premises of such schools. The investigations revealed that the schools identified provided a sub-standard education, placed children at risk and undermined the government’s effort to ensure all schools promoted British values.

The inspectors involved in the crackdown said they were ‘deeply alarmed’ by what they found. Health and safety risks included: serious fire hazards such as obstructed exits; unsafe and unhygienic premises; and staff and volunteers who had not been properly checked
or cleared to work with children.

Wilshaw warned that many schools were takin advantage of the freedoms of parents to home educate their children in order to cover their activities.
The Watchdog chief inspector added: “They are exploiting weaknesses in the current legislation to operate on the cusp of the law. Many are charging parents thousands of pounds to send their children to these unregistered schools."

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We have given new resources to Ofsted to investigate unregistered schools, and to prepare case files for prosecution by the CPS.

"We have consulted on new measures to protect children in out of schools settings offering intensive education. We received a large number of responses, which we are now considering, and will make a further announcement in due course."

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