Family & Education

Charedi schools representatives meet prime minister's faith advisor to discuss Ofsted deadlock

They met while cabinet ministers were gathering in Downing Street to be briefed on the draft Brexit deal


Representatives of Charedi schools have met the Prime Minister’s faith adviser in a bid to resolve the long-running problems they have faced from the inspectorate over LGBT issues.

A delegation of Chinuch UK held talks with John Hellewell on Tuesday - while cabinet ministers were gathering in Downing Street to be briefed on the draft Brexit deal.

David Landau, chairman of Chinuch UK, which was formed earlier this year to protect strictly Orthodox education, said after the meeting that they felt “nearer” to finding a solution.

Over the past three years, Charedi schools have been regularly criticised by inspectors for avoiding LGBT issues, despite the new requirement to teach “British values” of respect and tolerance for others.

Many Charedi schools believe matters of sexuality are for parents to discuss with their children and not for the classroom.

Mr Landau said: “We are still trying to get some sort of definitive answer to the problem”.

There remained “slightly different opinions” among Chinuch UK, the Department for Education and Chinuch UK over what precisely were the legal requirements, he said.

“There are lots of things they could do which would make life easier for us,” he said. “What could be set in stone is that primary schools don’t have to teach LGBT issues.”

Another option he suggested was that schools could be penalised less harshly by the inspectorate if they chose not to discuss LGBT issues because of their religious ethos.

But he said it was “encouraging that the DfE has engaged with us and is not dismissing our concerns”.

He also believed recent positive reports on Charedi schools by Ofsted suggested the inspection service had been “a little bit more understanding”.

The problem faced by Charedi schools was among the issues raised by the Jewish Leadership Council when representatives met Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this month.

Mr Landau said: “We are very pleased at the support we are getting within the broader Jewish community.”

Earlier this week, Shraga Stern, an activist from Stamford Hill, accompanied by Professor Geoffrey Alderman, met officials from the DfE to voice concern over proposed guidelines on relationships and sex education.

Mr Hellewell met representatives from the Torah Education Committee from Stamford Hill last week.

Mr Landau said he did not “see any harm” in others making representation to the government.

But one source working in the Jewish education field felt the “multiplication of Charedi education advocacy outfits is a hostage to fortune.

"There is always the risk of confused messaging and officials playing ‘divide and rule’.

The source added: “It seems particularly unfortunate because the challenges to finding a bridge between the attitudes of the Charedi community, the Department for Education and Ofsted are already significant.

“It would probably make most sense for those who want to contribute to row in behind a body like Chinuch UK, which seems to have senior rabbinic buy-in. Either way, this needs to be sorted out.”

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