2nd Community Engagement Forum Meeting
19th November, 2015
Department of Education
On Thursday 19th November, Faith Associates CEO, Shaukat Warraich attended the 2nd meeting of the Prime Minister’s newly formed Community Engagement Forum held at the Department of Education, Westminster, London. Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP and the Minister for Countering Extremism, Lord Tariq Ahmad sought the views of the 20 or so attendees on regulation of ‘out of school’ education settings.
This forum was attended by representatives of all major faiths, key individuals of regulatory bodies and chief executives of local authorities.
Regulation of ‘out of school’ education settings
This discussion was on the intention to require out of school settings to register so that they can be inspected which was included in the Government’s revised counter-extremism strategy published on 19th October. Shaukat expressed that there is a real anxiety within the Muslim communities Faith Associates engage with on what this will mean for Mosques and Madrassahs.
A key observation made at the forum was the importance of ensuring all young people that attend settings for supplementary education are safe and protected from harm and abuse (in all its forms) and this was agreed as the main area of concern for Government. The suggestion is that all settings where supplementary education takes places and whether faith-based education takes place or not (such as after school tuition centres) be required to register with their local authority. The focus of the government is on more than supplementary and faith education for Muslims or on Islam and the representation of heads of the Jewish, Christian, Sikh and Hindu communities at the forum was testament to that.
The discussion around the notion of regulation focussed on four key areas of concern, namely:
- criteria for registration
- who to register with
- how to understand and regulate places where teaching is taking place
- how faith groups can work together.
Based on Faith Associates experience of working across the UK with local Mosques and Madrasah and those that manage and lead them over the past 15 years, Shaukat shared insights on the structure and operation of local Islamic organisations and the range of views Muslim communities are expressing about the proposed regulation of the supplementary education they provide.
Through the discussion, points were raised on the need to ensure that key stakeholders of faith institutions are engaged with (parents, management and teachers) and that the focus is on ensuring all are aware of their responsibilities for the safety and wellbeing of children and young people (safeguarding). The importance of good management structures and training and support to develop, implement and monitor policies and procedures was emphasised along with ensuring parents and the wider community understand why safeguarding is important.
The good relationship between many Madrassah settings and their local authorities was emphasised and work was highlighted on developing and supporting madrassah teachers with their teaching methods and pedagogy. The opportunity to celebrate and share success stories within and beyond the communities of great Madrassahs and their teachers was noted.
A key concern was voiced on the implicit suggestion of a link between extremism, terrorism and supplementary schooling. Assurance was sought that the Government will provide clear evidence that there is a link and faith leaders raised concerns that whatever directives are designed, they do not combine the notion of extremism with shared normative religious values.
The forum was told that a call for evidence will invite responses to help increase the Government’s understanding of the out of school education setting landscape and the potential scope and impact of their proposals.