Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Faith schools prepare pupils to be good citizens

Independent faith schools give pupils a strong sense of personal worth and help them understand the importance of being a good citizen according to a report published today by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

The report, Independent faith schools, reveals that in all 51 independent faith schools visited this was nurtured through their ethos, the curriculum and in regular individual and communal prayers and thanksgiving.

Independent faith schools are registered by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), and this survey was conducted at the request of the Secretary of State. The aim was to determine the fitness for purpose of the standard for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development and the five regulations which the schools must meet. The survey evaluated the relevance of the regulations in relation to preparing children and young people for life in modern Britain.

The schools visited, which included primary and secondary schools for children from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu religions, all taught explicitly that good citizenship was a requirement of a good believer and this meant pupils felt they belonged, as British citizens, to this country.

All worked hard to develop pupils’ personal confidence to deal with negative influences, such as anti-Semitism, without compromising their beliefs and included respect for other cultures and faiths. However they agreed that the language in the regulations by which they are bound needed to be more fully explained. There was a general consensus that, instead of the ambiguous term 'modern Britain', the alternative should be 'preparing young people to be good citizens of the United Kingdom'.

Almost all the schools visited recognised the importance of encouraging a sense of belonging to their local area, to promote community cohesion, even though their local community was often very different from their faith community. Many of the schools enjoyed links with neighbouring institutions of different faiths too.

In most cases the materials on display and books used in school were balanced in terms of tone and content. However in eight of the 51 schools material was biased in favour of one group or lacked balance, and in a few cases published teaching materials contained incorrect information about the beliefs of others. Staff should ensure that materials used with pupils are unbiased and where they are not make sure that the bias is explained to pupils and balanced with other material.

Inspectors found that the majority of schools generally worked in isolation with few opportunities for staff to meet with teachers from other schools to develop their understanding of their subject, teaching methods and ways of working. Schools found the cost of attending external training prohibitive and nearly all headteachers said they would like to be able to access the subject and teaching expertise within local authorities to support the professional development of their staff.

Miriam Rosen, Executive Director, Ofsted, said: 'All schools have an important role in preparing their pupils for life in modern Britain. Our inspectors found that in these Independent Faith Schools, pupils gained a strong sense of identity and of belonging to their faith, their school and to Britain.'

Notes for Editors

1. The report, Independent faith schools, can be found on the Ofsted website

2. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

3. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 6899 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 08456 404040 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.

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