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Inquiry to check faith schools are teaching right from wrong Some pupils ‘not prepared for life in British society’

Independent faith schools are to be investigated by Ofsted over government concerns that some do not teach children how to fit in with British society.

The review will examine the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at small religious schools. It will look at whether children are learning to distinguish right from wrong, and are being taught to respect the law.

The anouncement by Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, yesterday is thought to be a response to recent criticism of some Muslim schools, or madrassas.

A report from the right-wing think-tank Civitas claimed last month that some Muslim children were being prepared to live in "Muslim enclaves", distinct from the rest of society.

Mr Balls said: "Some concerns have been raised recently about practice in a small minority of independent faith schools and whether they are effectively preparing pupils for life in wider British society."

A statement from the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that schools must "provide pupils with a broad general knowledge of public institutions and services in England" and "assist pupils to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions".

Ofsted will conduct a survey of teaching at about 20 to 30 faith schools.

This will include consideration of the influences that pupils are subjected to through the curriculum, extended school activities and links with external organisations.

There are hundreds of independent faith schools. The Association of Muslim Schools has 127 members, although a few are state schools.

Mr Balls has written to faith schools and the Independent Schools Council about the review. He said: "Children should have the best start in life and have the opportunity to understand others, have real and positive relationships with people from different backgrounds and feel part of a community, at a local, national and international level.

"From past inspection reports we are aware that there is inconsistency across the sector and concerns have been raised in relation to a minority of schools. I have asked Ofsted to survey a sample of schools from across different faiths to identify areas of good practice as well as areas for improvement."

Mohamed Mukadam, chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools, said:

"I’ve yet to see any surveys or Ofsted reports that show big concerns about Muslim schools. While we welcome the survey to see how best practice can be spread, we are confident that most of our Muslim schools are doing an excellent job in preparing children and young adults for life in modern British society." He added: "I’m not naive enough to say that every single faith school is [like this]. There must be some schools that have just come on board, that lack resources and expertise, and these schools must be helped."

Last year a former teacher at an Islamic school who alleged that it taught an offensive and racist view of nonMuslims won his case for unfair dismissal.

Colin Cook told a tribunal that children at the King Fahad Academy, which is funded and run by the Saudi Arabian Government, were taught from Arabic books that likened Jews and Christians to monkeys and pigs.

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