Ofsted calls for greater powers to close down illegal schools as suspected cases reach nearly 500

Ofsted needs greater powers to help close down illegal schools or to prosecute those who run them, the chief inspector of the education watchdog has said. The Independent reports.

Amanda Spielman has warned that the organisation is trying crack down on suspected unregistered schools with “one arm tied behind” its back. 

Her calls for government legislation to be “strengthened” comes as new figures show the number of unregistered settings investigated by Ofsted has nearly reached 500.

Ofsted’s annual report shows that the watchdog received referrals for around 480 suspected cases in England since January 2016 – when a taskforce was set up to look into unregistered schools. 

The number of possible illegal settings investigated by Ofsted has risen by around a third in nearly a year, as the watchdog confirmed in February that just over 350 sites had been investigated. 

Ofsted has some powers to intervene in settings operating as unregistered schools, but its annual report says current laws are “too weak” to close places down or prosecute those running them.

Settings have been investigated in every region in England – with the highest numbers of possible illegal schools in London and the West Midlands.

The report warns: “In some of these settings, children are being taught by adults who have not had even the most basic checks of their suitability. Many of these settings are operating in buildings that are badly maintained or unsafe – in some cases, squalid.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring children are safe from harm, wherever they are being educated. Ofsted’s task force is taking decisive action to tackle independent schools, which are operating illegally because they are not registered.

Read more Ofsted calls for greater powers to close down illegal schools as suspected cases reach nearly 500

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