A new strictly Orthodox secondary school for girls in North-West London which refuses to talk about LGBT people has been rated inadequate in its first inspection.
Ofsted was also critical of the secular education at the independent Shiras Devorah school, which opened last September on the premises of Woodside Park Synagogue.
The school’s leadership “specifically do not permit reference to gender reassignment or sexual orientation,” thus restricting pupils’ “preparedness for life in modern Britain”, inspectors said.
While the school currently has ten girls aged from 11 to 12 and is registered to take 40, Ofsted said it would not recommend its proposed expansion to 100 or raising its age limit to 18.
Shiras Devorah was opened against a background of rising demand for places in Charedi girls's secondary schools in North-Westen London and in particular to take girls from Beis Soroh Schneirer in Hendon.
A pre-opening visit from Ofsted last year concluded it was likely to meet independent school standards.
But Ofsted has now reported girls were not making enough progress in secular subjects and standards fell below expectations for their age range, while the school’s leadership had an “over-generous” view of pupils’ achievements.
Girls had too few opportunities to practise writing or use reasoning skills in maths.
But Ofsted recognised that leaders were taking “corrective action”, had expanded the secular curriculum to include art, textiles and citizenship and were working on other improvements in subjects such as science.
Where links were made between Jewish studies and secular subjects, such as history or geography, “the school’s evidence suggests that pupils remember important information for longer,” the inspection report said.
The Jewish studies curriculum, taught in English, was “well-thought through", with Hebrew writing and speaking a strength, Ofsted found.
It noted too that girls showed understanding of people with physical or mental disability which was “because they put themselves into the shoes of such a person”.