Najos urges Government to curb anti-faith school group campaigns

By Simon Rocker, October 29, 2015
Jonathan Rabson, executive director of Najos

Jonathan Rabson, executive director of Najos

The government is considering limiting the ability of secular groups to challenge the entry policies of faith schools, according to a participant at a recent Department for Education meeting.

A number of Jewish and other state-aided religious schools have been forced to amend their admissions rules over the past year after complaints to the Office of Schools Adjudicator made by groups such as the British Humanist Association.

But Jonathan Rabson, executive director of the National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools, who attended a meeting of faith groups at the DfE last week, believed that change could be on the cards.

In a report back to colleagues after the meeting, he said that "ministers have an appetite to change the Schools Admissions Code to prevent organisations that have no connection with the school (like the BHA) from raising objections to the OSA".

Mr Rabson said this week that he would welcome such a move because "it has been taking a lot of time and money, which the schools do not have, to respond to these particular attacks on schools of a religious designation".

A DfE spokesman would not comment on what he called a private meeting, but added that while there were plans to amend the Admissions Code this year, it related only to the question of summer-born children.

Also discussed at the meeting last week was the Government's plan to extend Ofsted inspections to supplementary religion schools as part of a new counter-extremism strategy.

Mr Rabsontold colleagues that "we have to watch carefully if this is going to give government powers to intervene with or inspect synagogue Hebrew Classes, sports clubs, yeshivah ketanos [junior yeshivot] and regular after- school programmes".

Ministers have an appetite to change the School Admissions Code

While Najos has no objection to the aim of rooting out hatred and intolerance, it has been disturbed by the recent experiences of Jewish schools during their Ofsted inspections.

Some Ofsted inspectors, it believes, have gone beyond the brief to ensure that schools teach "fundamental British values" by suggeting that the schools shoud be teaching about alternative lifestyles contrary to the school's religious ethos.

The organisation said last year that "Jewish values and ethos are being questioned by inspectors in a climate of hostility".

But Mr Rabson said this week that he was pleased that the department was setting up a working party to review the British values agenda.

Last updated: 11:55am, October 29 2015