Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP, said that the idea that Catholics are being radicalised in state schools is “ridiculous” and “offensive”
The idea that Catholics are being radicalised in state schools is “ridiculous” and “offensive”, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough said during a parliamentary debate on education, regulation and faith schools.
Sir Edward Leigh, who is also the president of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, said in a speech that “faith schools should hold their heads up high” and should stand for Christian values.
“[Faith schools] should not engage in the pre-emptive cringe and kowtow to the latest fashion but should stand by the principles that have made them such a success: love for God and neighbour; pursuit of truth; high-aspiration and discipline,” Sir Edward said.
“The idea that Catholics are being radicalised in state schools is as ridiculous as it is offensive,” he said.
The comments follow accusations against Ofsted, the education watchdog, of making unfair claims against a small number of faith schools. Last year, St Benedict’s Catholic School in Suffolk was downgraded from “good” to “requires improvement”, as part of a string of inspections last term.
The Catholic comprehensive was part of a list of 11 schools that were accused of “failing to prepare pupils for life in Britain”. It was ruled that St Benedict’s was among those not able to fulfil new British values requirements introduced last September.
Separately, Durham Free School is set to be closed down after it was declared inadequate for – among other issues – failing the Government’s new British values tests, introduced following the so-called Trojan Horse scandal, in which radical Muslim groups tried to infiltrate schools in Birmingham.
Sir Edward said “the Education Minister must make clear to Ofsted that having a religion ethos is not a negative thing. There are no Anglican or Catholic jihadists. Christian assemblies do not encourage extremism.”
A Department of Education spokesperson said: “It is not true to suggest that schools would ever be penalised for having a faith ethos.
“School are neither discriminated against nor given special treatment based on any religious belief. All schools are treated equally and inspected in the same way – any suggestion otherwise is wrong.
“We want every school to promote the basic British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs so that all children are prepared for life in modern Britain. Ofsted play a key part in ensuring this takes place.”
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector and a former head teacher of a Catholic secondary school, has previously laughed off suggestions that he’s presiding over “some sort of state-sponsored anti-faith school ‘witch hunt’”. He’s also said most faith schools “have nothing to fear either from Ofsted or from the recent guidance issued by the Department for Education on promoting British values as part of the curriculum.”
However, Sir Edward said: “So-called “British values” is a classic bureaucratic response to a problem and it is damaging Christian schools.
“The truth is that real British values are Christian values. It is the influence of Christianity that made us one of the most tolerant and successful nations on earth. Not this artificial nonsense dreamed up by officials.”