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Kensal Green vicar blasts Ofsted chief’s threat to crack down on Sunday school teaching

PUBLISHED: 07:30 20 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:07 20 January 2016

Reverend Ackerman against Sunday School Registration, Photo by Adam Tiernan Thomas

Reverend Ackerman against Sunday School Registration, Photo by Adam Tiernan Thomas

© Adam Tiernan Thomas

A Kensal Green vicar has blasted a proposal for the government to intervene in Sunday school teaching under new powers aimed at tackling extremism.

The Rev David Ackerman, of St John the Evangelist Church, in Harrow Road, spoke to the Times ahead of a Parliamentary debate on the issue today.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of education watchdog Ofsted, alarmed religious communities and MPs at the weekend when he announced that he wants to monitor Sunday schools as part of proposed powers to inspect all “out of school education”.

Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled the plans last year to crack down on a minority of Muslim madrassas which breed extremist views.

Rev Ackerman said: “Michael Wilshaw said every Sunday school will have to be recorded by the government for the first time in history. Do people want to live in a country like that?”

Sir Michael’s comments are at odds with the Department of Education and Ofsted itself, which have insisted that the powers would not be used to regulate any institution teaching children for a short period each week, such as Sunday schools.

But in a radio interview, Sir Michael said: “We need to know if a Sunday school is being run, is it registered, is it being run properly by people that have been through proper safeguarding checks and if that is done then we are happy with that and we will only go in when we feel that there is a need to do so.”

Under the proposed new powers, which were consulted on this month, anywhere offering childcare for more than six hours a week has to be registered with Ofsted.

St John’s weekly 30 minute classes during the church service may not qualify, but the vicar has called for clarity on the issue.

Rev Ackerman said: “Mr Wilshaw stated that Ofsted will not inspect all of them, but they want to know they exist. But there are thousands and thousands of them, and what does it mean?

“If you have to register six hours, does that include a day trip to London Zoo, which we did? That’s when it gets ludicrous.”

He added: “It’s absolutely stupid, we have little children colouring in. There’s a presumption that children are being taught extremist things, which is rubbish.

“Nobody wants children to be unsafe or harmed. Does that then mean you have to inspect Sunday Schools? No, I think you have to be sensible, pragmatic and consulted properly.”

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