Family & Education

Our inspections of Charedi schools follow equality law, says Ofsted head

Ofsted's chief inspector tells MPs of restricted education in Charedi girls' schools


The chief inspector of Ofsted has told MPs it is simply carrying out the requirements of equality law in its policy towards Charedi schools.

The inspection service has been engaged in a protracted battle with the strictly Orthodox community over demands that schools should talk about people of same-sex orientation or who have changed gender.

Appearing before the parliamentary public audit committee this week, Amanda Spielman said that it taken advice “very carefully” on what her staff were required to inspect.

According  to government guidelines, independents schools, when teaching respect for others, should “pay regard” to the protected characteristics listed in the 2010 Equality Act - which include same-sex orientation and transgender reassignment.

“We must make sure that all of the protected characteristics are given proper regard,” Mrs Spielman insisted.

But some were making claims that protection of religion should take priority over other aspects, she said.

For example, arguments advanced on behalf of Charedi schools said that “religion should justify not having to have regard to all of the other aspects” of the equality law.

Solicitors acting for a Stamford Hill activist, Shraga Stern, recently sent a letter to the Department for Education, which argued that forcing Charedi schools to talk about issues of sexuality they did not wish to discuss violated their religious freedom.

During her appearance, Ms Spielman also talked of religion narrowing the educational experience of Charedi girls, citing the example of the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Hackney.

Last year, she said, an inspection into the state-funded school had reported “on the extremely limited education which girls were receiving, on the way that books in the library were drastically redacted so that they wouldn’t see many things that it would be absolutely normal for a teenager to see in a book available in a school in this country”.

A follow-up Ofsted visit this week found that the school had since made progress, although it was not teaching biology.

According to school performance tables published by the DfE yesterday, Yesodey Hatorah ranked 21st out of all state schools in England for progress made by its pupils from entry to GCSE.


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