Report hails religious education

By Simon Rocker, February 23, 2012

Jewish education is good or outstanding at nearly 80 per cent of the Jewish schools inspected over the past four years, a new report from the Pikuach inspection service reveals.

However, Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has warned that Ivrit teaching needs to improve and that too many pupils are bored or uninspired by prayer services.

Pikuach - which is supported by the Board of Deputies and the UJIA - has inspected 37 Jewish schools since 2007, from Progressive to strictly Orthodox. Jewish education is rated according to the ethos of the school.

Twelve were ranked outstanding, 17 good and eight satisfactory.

Report author Dr Helena Miller - director of research at UJIA - said: "Very few of our schools have made little or no improvement since their previous Pikuach inspection."

In a foreword, Lord Sacks expressed "no doubt that our children are better educated Jewishly now than in the past". He praised the way Jewish values were incorporated, turning schools into "caring communities". But he also spelt out areas for improvement.

"Taken as a whole, we still underperform in the teaching of Ivrit," he wrote. "Few of our schools produce pupils fluent in spoken Hebrew. This should not be the case.

"Jews are a global people and the mark of a people is that they speak the same language. Fluency in conversational Ivrit should be a sine qua non of a Jewish education."

Prayer was another area of concern. "Evidently, Jewish assemblies leave many pupils uninspired and unmoved. That is not, surely, the fault of the schools. It is a by-product of contemporary secular society, which seems to leave little space for the development of what used to be called the soul. We must, within our community and beyond, work together to change this."

A third challenge, being "met more effectively by some schools than others", was the concept of an integrated curriculum. "We should be encouraging pupils to use the same skills of analysis and imagination in relation to classic Judaic texts as they do for English literature, or art, or science.

"An integrated curriculum helps produce integrated identities - Jews equally at home in the synagogue and the wider society."

Last updated: 3:34pm, February 23 2012