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Ofsted to meet Charedi leaders over strictly Orthodox schools failing inspections

Schools feel they are being forced to teach 'British values' that contradict their religious outlook

    Thousands attended the day of prayer on June 19, 2018 amid fears their schools were under threat from Ofsted
    Thousands attended the day of prayer on June 19, 2018 amid fears their schools were under threat from Ofsted

    Ofsted is to meet Charedi education leaders later this month in an effort to resolve the crisis over independent, strictly Orthodox schools failing inspections.

    Charedi representatives argue that inspectors are unfairly requiring schools to teach pupils about LGBT issues as part of the “British values” curriculum, in contradiction to their religious outlook.

    Ofsted said it would “run information sessions for Jewish school leaders about how we inspect schools against the independent school standards and to provide guidance on how standards on fundamental British values and protected characteristics can be met.”

    Guidelines for independent schools say that teaching British values of respect and tolerance for others should “pay regard” to the protected characteristics of anti-discrimination law. These include race, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

    Ofsted said the sessions follow “a very positive and productive meeting” with representatives of Partnerships for Jewish Schools  - the Jewish Leadership Council’s education division - hosted by Lord Polak.

    Ofsted said they discussed “how we can work together to build Jewish schools’ understanding of how they can comply with existing requirements around equalities and fundamental British values, in a way that is in line with their religious beliefs” when they met with Pajes.

    Rabbi David Meyer, executive director of Pajes, said: “We are delighted that, together with Ofsted, we have found a way for Jewish schools to be true to their ethos and meet the standards expected by Ofsted.

    “We are very much looking forward to continuing to work closely with Ofsted and build greater understanding between them and Jewish schools. We hope to see even more positive progress over the coming weeks.”

    On Tuesday, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis met the Education Secretary Damian Hinds, who took office earlier this year.

    The Office of Chief Rabbi would not discuss the content beyond saying that it involved “pertinent issues and deep concerns regarding Jewish education”.

    The DFE said the meeting was one of regular catch-ups with leaders involved in religious schools and had been in the diary for some time.

    Last week, Ofsted rated state-aided Chasidic girls’ school Yesodey Hatorah inadequate, accusing it of censoring textbooks, failing to teach about reproduction in science and doing too little to encourage respect for other groups of people.

    The school responded by accusing Ofsted of a "secularist plot", saying it had "downplayed our successes and academic achievements, whilst showing a clear disrespect for the Orthodox Jewish community".

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