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Ofsted keeps up pressure on Charedi schools to teach about same-sex relationships

Two independent schools in the North are criticised for not talking about LGBT issues with pupils

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Two independent Strictly Orthodox boys’ schools have been pulled up by Ofsted for continuing to refuse to discuss LGBT relationships. 

Inspectors said the Gateshead Cheder Primary School – which actually teaches boys up to the age of 16- and Yeshivah Ohr Torah in Salford were failing to meet independent school standards. 

At the Gateshead school, the inspector said she did “not discuss the protected characteristics of gender identity and sexual orientation with the pupils.The headteacher confirmed, as at the last inspection, that the school does not discuss these issues with pupils.” 

Protected characteristics refer to categories of people protected under equality law. 

Pupils of all ages, she said, “had an understanding that families can be different. They were able to tell me how divorce or death may change a family unit. Pupils spoke of some of the protected characteristics, such as disability.” 

But older pupils “had no understanding of stereotypes or the legal status of a marriage, as required by the relationships and sex education and health education curriculum”. 

At Yeshivah Ohr Torah, a secondary school, leaders made it clear that “there could be no discussion with pupils to explore their understanding of sexual orientation and gender reassignment,” Ofsted reported. “This was because they felt that such discussion was not in keeping with the school’s faith and beliefs.” 

There remained “a lack of action to ensure that the proprietor body and leaders encourage respect for all the protected characteristics. Sexual orientation and gender reassignment are deliberately absent from leaders’ work in this area.” 

The clash with Ofsted over LGBT issues has remained a long running sore for Charedi schools, which insist that it is against their religious ethos to talk about such topics in class. 

While Ofsted has not carried out standard inspections for nearly a year, it is still visiting schools falling short of required standards. Yeshivas Ohr Torah was ranked inadequate, the lowest inspection grade, in 2018 and Gateshead Cheder similarly two years ago. 

The latest report on Gateshead came after an emergency inspection last month to check health and safety which the school passed. 

Whereas previously staff had not been skilled enough to assess the supervision of children on outward bound trips, leaders had taken advice from the Health and Safety Executive to address this. 

Yeshivah Ohr Torah had made “several improvements”, Ofsted noted, but there was still no safe outdoor space for children to play or do PE. 

While its registered maximum was 39 pupils, it had almost double in December – 74, the inspectorate found. 

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