Madrassas regulation plans published

Prime Minister David Cameron recently voiced concerns that some children were ‘having their heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate’ as a result of attending Muslim supplementary schools.

Muslim organisations have responded to plans by accepting regulation is needed but also contending concerns about radicalisation are misplaced.

Under the new plans, any out-of-school setting providing intensive education for more than six hours a week, would be required to register and be open to inspection.

The plans suggest a range of prohibited events that would prompt intervention including the appointment of unsuitable staff and failure to ensure the safety of the children.

In addition, corporal punishment will be banned along with teaching that ‘promotes extreme views’ or is deemed incompatible with fundamental British values. The new powers will give inspectors the power to close down premises, or ban individuals from working with children.

Inspection are also set to be ‘risk-based’ rather than routine, following concerns raised by parents, children or random visitations.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “We recognise that many out-of-school education settings, including supplementary schools and tuition centres, do a great job in supporting children's education and development - but, without proper oversight, there is a risk that some children attending them may be exposed to harm, including from extremism."

While the majority of madrassas are large voluntary organisations that vet and properly train their staff, there are a number operating in smaller informal settings. Under previous legislation Ofsted’s inspection powers were limited.

Zulfi Karim, of the Bradford Council of Mosques, agreed madrassas needed ‘to do more to prevent abuse, and we could be more inclusive’.

However he maintained: ”That's no different to society overall, these issues are not exclusive to the Muslim community alone.”

Mr Karim also voiced concerns the government risked interfering with religious instruction.

He added: ”We would like our Islamic institutions to remain independent, and we will play our role in making sure that they are safe and secure for the community they serve".

Between 450 and 500 children attend the Quwwatul Islam madrassa in Preston, Lancashire, every afternoon after school.

The local Muslim community raised money for the building, which also contains a nursery rated outstanding by Ofsted.

Khalid Ibrahim, the madrassa's head teacher, assured he was confident his school would comply with all the welfare standards but counselled it was not clear what problem the new regulations were intendeding to fix.

He said: ”That's exactly what we don't understand, simply because there is so much positive work taking place, based on the announcement it looks like we are the problem to the wider problems in society, rather than the solution”.

Pascale Vassari from the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education insisted the same standards should apply to everyone. He said: ”Every child has a right and every parent has a right to know the activities they attend are safe.”

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