Rabbis warn against 'unsuitable' teacher training on child abuse

Strictly Orthodox rabbis have warned schools to beware of unsuitable teacher training material on child abuse.

A letter from the rabbinical council of the London-based Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, alerted Charedi school and kindergarten heads to new government regulations said to be “a difficult and bitter decree against Torah education”.

It also warned of a “danger” posed to teachers by NVQ training material and said teachers should avoid visiting “institutions which are not Charedi” without rabbinical permission.

The letter, which was signed by Rabbi David Halpern, secretary of the council, following a meeting last week, did not spell out exactly what had prompted rabbinic concern.

Rabbi Jehudah Baumgarten, chair of the Union’s education committee, explained that the letter related to educational material used in NVQ childcare courses.

According to government regulations, at least half of the staff in nursery schools are required to have qualifications equivalent to NVQ level 2.

“The manuals of the NVQs go into a lot of detail about child abuse,” Rabbi Baumgarten said. “This is a very sensitive area. What the letter meant to say was that people should be aware that it is sensitive and should take a daas Torah (Torah approach) on how to handle it.”

He added: “NVQs are taught in Charedi seminaries for young women and schools have hired NVQ trainers who present these issues in a culturally sensitive manner.”

Kindergartens and nurseries are also legally required to have at least one member of staff responsible for “safeguarding children”, who has attended a child protection training course. Those courses tailored to the Charedi community are run by such organisations as the charity advisory agency, the Interlink Foundation.

Rabbi Baumgarten said: “The handling of any suspected cases of child abuse follows procedural protocol. ”

According to Rabbi Halpern’s letter, a committee of three leading rabbis has been set up to seek advice on how to deal with the educational authorities “in order not to damage Jewish education”.

    Last updated: 12:34pm, March 5 2009