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Charedi rabbis alarmed by Department for Education early years guidelines on creationism

Rabbinate of Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations say it is a lie the world is ancient

    Spiral galaxy M7 (European Space Observatory)
    Spiral galaxy M7 (European Space Observatory)

    Strictly Orthodox leaders have instructed nurseries not to sign contracts with councils for early years’ funding because of fear of compromising beliefs on the creation of the world.

    They have reacted to Department for Education guidelines which state councils should not fund institutions which “present creationism as fact”.

    In Hackney, Charedi nurseries and early years providers receive over £7 million via the council every year.

    Families are eligible for 15 hours a week of free care or education for children aged three and four, and, for 30 hours if both parents work a certain number of hours each week. Some two-year-olds are also eligible.

    The rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations last month issued an order in Hebrew saying contracts which contain the clause on creationism should not be signed. Those who had inadvertently signed them should withdraw their signatures.

    According to a translation by the strictly Orthodox blog, If You Tickle Us, the UOHC rabbis said the DfE guidelines “place great doubts, Heaven forfend, in the creation of the world with the lie that the world is ancient — may their mouths be filled with earth. This is a lie that earlier sages of blessed memory contended with, and now they wish to infiltrate us with this falsehood.”

    In guidelines issued last March, the DfE says funding should not go to institutions which promote “as fact views and theories which are contrary to established scientific or historical evidence and explanations”. But this condition has “no bearing on teaching children about religious beliefs, traditions and festivals”, it adds.

    It is not clear why the Union has acted now since the identical clause was contained in a previous version of the guidelines published in 2014.

    Hackney’s Deputy Mayor, Anntoinette Bramble, said earlier this month the clause on creationism had not “caused a problem to date”.

    She said “we have good relationships with our providers and we hope that they will continue to work with us to access this valuable funding.”

    But the council said this week that one Orthodox provider in the borough has now queried the contract.

    *Charedi rabbis from across the country recently met in Nottingham to try to agree a unified response to Ofsted demands, the JC has learned.

    Inspectors have criticised a number of strictly Orthodox schools for not addressing issues such as same-sex orientation as part of the requirement to teach respect and tolerance for others.

    While some schools have found a way to meet Ofsted conditions, others say it is against their ethos to talk about sexuality at all.

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