Family & Education

LibDems play safe on faith school entry

What election promises hold for Jewish education



For this election at least, faith schools are off the agenda. If any of the main parties is contemplating a change to the status quo, they have avoided declaring their hand.

Pragmatism seems to have prevailed among the Liberal Democrats, who two and a half years ago voted to end religious selection in state schools. A radical move which, just as was the case with the 2017 election, they have again left out of their manifesto.

It would hardly have helped Luciana Berger’s bid to capture marginal Finchley and Golders Green for the party had she had to defend the idea of stopping Jewish schools from giving priority to Jewish pupils.

The LibDems, as do Labour and the Greens, have pledged to replace Ofsted — a proposition that would hardly be unwelcome within much of the Charedi community, who see the inspection service as a thorn in the side of their schools.

But on the issue which has caused most grief among the strictly Orthodox — teaching about same-sex relationships — there is nothing to suggest any party would amend current Conservative policy.

The Lib Dems promise to include “age-appropriate relationships and sex education (RSE)” in a “curriculum for life”, that would include teaching about sexual consent and LGBT+ relationships.

And Labour says it will provide funding for schools to deliver “mandatory LGBT+ inclusive” RSE.

As expected, Labour has stopped short of implementing the most dramatic education proposal from its last conference, to abolish private school: this instead will be put for further consideration to the Social Justice Commission.

But the party says it will end “tax privileges” for “elite private schools”, which means imposing VAT on school fees and removing charitable status, making independent schools more expensive to run.

Although this could spell problems for the Strictly Orthodox since most of their schools are independent, the reference to “elite” institutions suggests the party will confine its target to selective schools.

It would most likely try to find ways to spare the kind of community schools that, for instance, serve Stamford Hill or Gateshead.

While a revamped curriculum under Labour would include climate change and the history of the slave trade, the Holocaust would continue to be covered, the party says.

In its additional race and faith manifesto, Labour also says it will support religious education about “all faiths in all schools” — though offering no detail on what that might mean in practice.

Far from abolishing Ofsted, the Conservatives plan to increase funding to the inspection service and introduce no-notice inspections.

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