An unregistered school in Luton that is suspected of being run illegally has been handed a warning notice and may be prosecuted.
In a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw revealed that the schools watchdog has issued seven warning notices to ‘suspected illegal schools’ in Luton, London, Wolverhampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham.
Inspections uncovered “serious fire hazards, including obstructed exits and inaccessible fire escapes”, as well as schools with unsafe and unhygienic premises.
One case involved the discovery of “chemicals and chemistry equipment in an unlocked food cupboard in a room where children ate their lunch”, Sir Michael said.
Ofsted has told us that it cannot disclose any information about the school under investigation in Luton, due to the potential for prosecutions.
Inspectors have already interviewed several people under caution over suspected offences.
Sir Michael told Ms Morgan that inspectors had been left ‘deeply alarmed’ by what they found.
He said: “The evidence that they have gathered so far during this short period firmly reinforces my belief that there are many more children hidden away from the view of the authorities in unregistered schools across the country than previously thought.”
Sir Michael added that those operating unregistered schools are “on the cusp of the law”.
He wrote: “Many are charging parents thousands of pounds to send their children to these unregistered schools.
“In doing so, many are providing a sub-standard education, placing children at risk and undermining the government’s efforts to ensure that all schools are promoting British values, including tolerance and respect for others.”
Ofsted’s findings came after Ms Morgan asked Sir Michael Wilshaw to set up a taskforce to investigate suspected illegal schools in December.
The Department for Education said that it has supported the investigation by giving Ofsted new resources and preparing case files for the Crown Prosecution Service.
A spokesperson told the Luton News: “We have consulted on new measures to protect children in out of schools settings offering intensive education. We received a large number of responses, which we are now considering, and will make a further announcement in due course.
“Parents may choose to home school their children and many do a good job, but that education must be of a suitable quality.
“We are taking steps to ensure the system is as robust as it can be when it comes to protecting young people, while at the same time safeguarding the rights of parents to determine how and where to educate their children.”