Family & Education

Ofsted and DfE do not see eye to eye over LGBT, Jewish schools told

The interpretation of education guidelines is continuing to pose problems for many Jewish schools


Jewish schools have been told that Ofsted and the Department for Education do not see eye-to-eye on teaching about LGBT people.

In an email to school heads, Raisel Freedman of Pajes - the Jewish Leadership Council’s schools network - said there was currently “a disparity of opinion” between the DfE and the inspectorate.

Independent schools are required as part of teaching respect for others to refer to the characteristics of people protected by equality law - which include sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

But the department’s guidelines give schools room to decide at what age they feel it appropriate to introduce these subjects.

Pajes has previously advised primary schools they do not need to talk about families with same-sex parents.

But recent Ofsted inspections that have criticised Charedi primary schools for not doing so shows the inspection service believes otherwise.

In the email to headteachers, Pajes said Ofsted appeared to “have changed their position on the definition of age appropriate and the requirements for specific mention of LGBT at primary level”.

At present, only independent primary schools were affected as “for state schools the guidance is clear that it is sufficient to teach different family units” — without having to refer specifically to families with same-sex parents.

As a result, there had been a “sudden increase” in strictly Orthodox primary schools being graded by Ofsted as “requiring improvement” and told they were not meeting independent school standards.

Pajes said if a school was failed in this one area, the DfE would in future write to it in order to clarify its policy on age appropriateness.

The school would have to provide evidence on why it did not refer specifically to sexual orientation or gender reassignment.

“If a school can satisfactorily demonstrate a rationale, which we suggest could be based around the determination of age appropriateness by the school, then the DfE will reverse the decision and deem the school to have met the independent schools standards,” heads were advised

She said that Pajes had raised the issue with the DfE as a “matter of urgency”. But it would continue discussions with the DfE and Ofsted as the solution was “not ideal”.

Ofsted has previously said in defence of its inspection of Charedi primary schools, “It is important that all children gain an understanding of the world in which they are growing and part of this includes having learnt about different types of relationships and family structures.”

Independent schools, it said, “are required to abide by the 2010 Equality Act and encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to those with protected characteristics."

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