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Lords report backs Ofsted on LGBT education in faith schools

A report by a committee of peers says there should be no exemption for faith schools on teaching British values

    A report published today by the House of Lords has supported Ofsted in requiring faith schools to talk about people in same-sex relationships.

    Charedi leaders have become increasingly alarmed by an inspection policy which expects schools to mention LGBT issues as part of British values.

    But the Lords’ select committee on citizenship and civic engagement said it was “entirely right” for Ofsted to sanction schools which “fail to teach about LGBT people”.

    New proposals from the Department for Education are already threatening to further squeeze Strictly Orthodox independent schools over the teaching of “British values”.

    One of the most influential Charedi leaders in Britain, the Gateshead Rav, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, warned earlier this year that state interference in religious schools amounted to possibly the most serious issue for British Jewry in 700 years.

    But the Lords report is clear that acknowledging LGBT people should be part of the British values agenda in schools - which it wants to rename as Shared Values of British Citizenship rather than Fundamental British Values.

    “Certain groups are failing to respect the autonomy of women, LGBT people and the religious practices of other groups,” the report, entitled “Ties that Bind”, stated.

    “This is against the values of British society. We recognise each individual as inherently worthy of respect. We have a duty to respect the dignity and autonomy of all people. The state has a duty to treat all its citizens with equal respect and concern.”

    The report is also explicit in wanting no exemption for faith schools. “Faith schools, and other schools attended primarily by the adherents of one faith, should be no exception to the requirement to teach Shared Values of British Citizenship, still less the requirement to abide by the rule of law.

    “We are glad to see Ofsted focusing on this important issue. They should not look the other way.”

    The committee believes British values should be presented as part of citizenship education and not as counter-extremism policy. In proposing the name change, it cited Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who warned the committee “fundamental values can lead towards fundamentalism”.

    It was cautious about the government’s plan to lift the cap on free schools, which may admit only half their pupils on the basis of faith.

    New admissions arrangements, it said, should not encourage social segregation, recommending they are piloted in selective areas first.

    Peers also said the DfE should ensure unregistered schools are “not used by communities as a way of avoiding learning about Shared British Values”.

    An estimated 1,000 boys from the age of 13 learn in unregistered yeshivot in Stamford Hill - which argue they are not schools according to the legal definition and therefore not subject to educational requirements for schools.

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