Family & Education

Government could relax private school inspection plans that have alarmed Charedi community

Meeting with Ofsted officials is 'positive first step', strictly Orthodox sources say


The government is ready to amend proposals to tighten the inspection of independent schools which have alarmed the Charedi community, strictly Orthodox sources have said.

Chinuch UK, the newly formed campaign group for strictly Orthodox schools across the country, said a meeting with officials from Ofsted on Tuesday was “a significant first step” in resolving the problems over inspecting Charedi schools.

Peter Swift, head of independent schools at the Department for Education, had indicated at the meeting that the guidelines on independent schools would not appear as originally drafted, Chinuch UK said. The proposals had “shocked the frum community”.

Tensions have grown between Ofsted and the Charedi community in recent years over the number of strictly Orthodox schools failing inspections.

Charedi schools have been particularly disturbed at being told by inspectors they should talk about issues such as same-sex relations or gender reassignment as part of the British values curriculum to teach respect for others.

The new proposals on regulating independent schools, which are now out for consultation, would increase pressure on strictly Orthodox schools to comply with such demands.

They would also give schools less time to improve following critical inspections.

David Landau, chairman of Chinuch UK, said: “We were all impressed by Ofsted’s openness about what has gone wrong and the genuine will to turn things around”.

It would, he added, “take time for things to happen, but this is a very promising start”.

An Ofsted spokesman described the talks as "positive and constructive".

Mike Sheridan, Ofsted’s chief inspector for the London region, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, last week visited a number of Charedi schools in Manchester which have passed inspections and plans to visit schools in Gateshead, Chinuch UK said.

The meeting was arranged by Rabbi David Meyer, executive director of Partnerships for Jewish Schools, the Jewish Leadership Council’s education division, and chaired by Lord Polak, who has been working to defuse the crisis over Charedi schools.

It was attended by a number of senior Ofsted officials and 12 delegates from Chinuch UK representing North London, North-West London, Manchester and Gateshead.

Rabbi Meyer said there was confidence a way could be found to ensure Jewish schools could be fully compliant with independent schools standards in a manner compatible with Orthodox beliefs.

Chinuch UK is planning to issue schools with guidance from senior rabbis on how to respond to the DfE’s regulatory requirements.

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