Family & Education

Orthodox school with good education threatened with deregistration over LGBT

Mechinoh School says issues related to sexuality must be 'the domain of the parents'


A strictly Orthodox secondary school in Salford has been threatened with removal from the register by the Department for Education because it will not teach openly about LGBT people.

Mechinoh, a small independent boys school, was rated as good in three out of four areas by Ofsted a year ago but was told it was not complying with requirements on equality.

This week it was warned by the DfE it could be permanently shut unless it produced an action plan to address the issue.

The school insists it teaches respect and tolerance for all people “regardless of difference” but that its religious standards are “immutable”.

Mechinoh was first warned in January by the DfE to come up with a plan of action or face sanctions.

Last month the school’s headteacher Rabbi Eliyohu Rubinstein wrote back to the DfE to say that its educational progress had been “unjustly” undervalued  and that the only reason it had been downgraded by Ofsted was over its stance on LGBT-related issues.

School was “not a place to discuss subjects relating to intimacy in relationships, sexual orientation and gender reassignment,” he wrote. “This must remain the domain of the parents.”

Mechinoh, he said, had received advice that Ofsted was acting “ultra vires” in expecting it to “actively promote” topics such as sexual orientation or gender reassignment.

The school’s treatment by the education authorities prompted a strong statement earlier this year from the rabbis of Chinuch UK, the main Charedi educational representative body, to reiterate that their schools could not talk about same-sex relations in class.

But now the DfE has now ratcheted up its threat, telling the school’s proprietor it must present a “robust” action plan within two weeks.

“If the school is unable to provide an acceptable action plan or is not, at the time of the next inspection, meeting the standards, it is highly likely that an immediate move will be made to delete the school from the register of independent schools,” the DfE wrote.

“Once deleted, any school that continues to operate does so illegally and you, as the proprietor, would be liable for prosecution.”

Meanwhile, one of Stamford Hill’s largest Chasidic boys schools has been graded inadequate by Ofsted for the second time in two years.

Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass is unusual in taking boys from three to 16 – whereas many Charedi boys in the area often leave school for unregistered yeshivot at 13.

However, Ofsted said boys from year eight in Machzikei Hadass’s yeshivah section were not receiving separate lessons for secular subjects.

“References to secular knowledge are linked to Jewish teaching,” inspectors reported. “For example, pupils learn about healthy eating through the Kodesh [Jewish studies] curriculum. However, these links are haphazard.”

Ofsted announced that it would be suspending inspections this week because of coronavirus.

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