Family & Education

Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman should go after King David report, says Orthodox education consultant

Former United Synagogue head of education advocates legal challenge following downgrade of Manchester school


Michael Cohen, a former head of education at the United Synagogue, has called for legal action against Ofsted to be considered following its downgrade of the King David High School in Manchester last month from outstanding to inadequate.

Inspectors said the school was in breach of equality law because boys and girls in its Yavneh branches for more religious students received a narrower secular education than those in the school’s general stream, and that Yavneh girls were disadvantaged by being unable to socialise with boys at lunch or all extra-curricular activities.

Mr Cohen, a consultant who has advised many Charedi schools, said in an article in the strictly-Orthodox weekly, the Jewish Tribune, “There would seem to be a strong case in favour of legally challenging Ofsted’s behaviour… 

“In common with many others, I believe that over the past couple of years Ofsted has acted in a way that goes well beyond its professional responsibilities, particularly in matters pertaining to religious faith and practice.”

Referring to King David, he said, “As the purpose any school inspection is to assess the effectiveness of the teaching and learning, there would appear to be a blatant abuse and perversion of the role carried out by the inspectorate in this instance. In simple terms the inspection was flawed.”

Commenting more generally on critical Ofsted inspections of Charedi schools, he said the Jewish education system was “under serious attack, an attack that is designed not to weaken but to destroy our sacred mosdos [institutions]”.

He accused Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman of supporting an “anti-religious programme” and said “steps should be taken” to bring about her dismissal.

He said that if schools experienced similar “pre-judgments” to King David’s from inspectors about the practice of their faith, they should not allow the inspection to proceed or else organise alternative activities for pupils such as outings to take place at the same time.

“As any kind of trust and confidence in Ofsted has been destroyed, our schools  and mosdos  should become more strident and assertive when dealing with future Ofsted  inspections,” he said.

Neither the Board of Deputies or the Jewish Leadership Council’s education division, Pajes, has commented openly on the King David inspection.

But the JC understands that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has written to Nick Gibb, the School Standards Minister, to voice concerns.


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