Charedi father loses in education court battle

By James Brewster, September 13, 2012

A strictly Orthodox father, angered by his ex-wife’s plans to give their children a more secular education, has failed in an Appeal Court bid to stop her.

Both parents are part of the Charedi community in north London and were married for 10 years.

However, after studying for an Open University Master’s degree and forging a professional career for herself, the mother has now gone her own way and is determined that her children, the youngest of whom is aged three, should have the schooling she never had.

The couple, in their 30s, split two years ago and have been at war ever since over how the children should be brought up. At one point the mother obtained a non-molestation order against the father and says she has been “ostracised” by the Charedi community.

On Friday, three Appeal Court judges rejected the father’s last-ditch bid to block the mother’s plans to send her “very bright” children to mainstream Jewish schools, where they will study the national curriculum and, if they want, gain qualifications for university.

The mother obtained a non-molestation order against the father and says she has been “ostracised” by the Charedi community

The father’s counsel, Eleanor Platt QC, had told the court that he was deeply concerned that his ex-wife would lead his children away from the strictly Orthodox community into which they were born and denigrate his lifestyle in their eyes.

He particularly objected to the prospect of his daughters being sent to a mixed-gender school and to his children having unrestricted access to television, cinema, “certain newspapers”, the internet and social networking sites.

The mother now lives with the children half-an-hour’s walk away from the nearest synagogue and Miss Platt said that was a long trek for a three-year-old on the Sabbath.

The children, said the barrister, were thriving at their current schools and moving them away from the lifestyle they had known all their lives would split them from their friends, who would be forbidden from associating with them, and cause them emotional harm.

However, the mother, who at an earlier court hearing told a judge she had been “forced” into her marriage by pressure from her family, insisted that educating the children at an ordinary Jewish school would give them “infinitely superior opportunities”.

She said that, since her split from the father, members of the Charedi community would “cross the road” to avoid her, but added that she had every intention of keeping a strictly kosher home and bringing her children up within the Orthodox tradition.

The Appeal Court judges rejected the father’s plea that he should be granted a joint residency order and that the mother should be refused permission to move the children to new schools.

Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Munby and Sir Stephen Sedley will give detailed reasons for their decision at a later date.

Last updated: 7:45pm, September 13 2012