Family & Education

School entry policy 'in breach' of equality law

Menorah Primary School told by admissions regular that it could not ask if applicants were halachically Jewish


A state-aided Orthodox primary school which asked rabbis to confirm that appllicants were “halachically Jewish” has been told it is in breach of equalities law. 

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) upheld a complaint against the admissions policy of Menorah Primary School on several grounds in a decision published on Wednesday. 

The OSA noted that “the Supreme Court has ruled that school admission arrangements that give priority on the basis of being halachically Jewish amount to unlawful discrimination on grounds of race” (in the 2009 case against JFS). 

The regulator also ruled against the school, among other things, for giving priority for reception places to those who attended its nursery and failing to be clear about the religious criteria used to decide entry. 

Menorah offered priority to members of Golders Green Beth Hamedrash, the synagogue which founded the school in 1944, or those who were “frequent attendees”. 

But the OSA said that synagogue membership could not be used both because it was limited to those who were halachically Jewish and, since it involved paying fees, also fell foul of the rules against linking places to financial contributions. 

The school, which said that frequent attendance involved going to services or shiurim at least four times a week, was told it needed to modify arrangements for this in order not to disadvantage particular groups of parents. 

It had “helpfully already stated its willingness to consider making its attendance requirements different for different parental entities” - married couples, men, women, single parents, the OSA stated. 

The OSA also found the schools’ requirements for religious observance were not clear or able to be objectively verified: it specified compliance with the Shulchan Aruch based on the “ three pillars of Ahavas Torah [love of Torah], Yiras Shomayim [fear of heaven] and Middos Tovos [good character traits]”. 

The adjudicator noted that one translation of Yiras Shomayim was that it means “behaving in private as one would do in public” – which is not something verifiable. 

While there was no blanket ban against primaries including nursery attendance as a priority for reception, the adjudicator found Menorah’s use unfair because “there is effectively no chance of admission to [reception] for a child who has not attended the nursery” and because there was no appeal if a child was rejected when applying to the nursery. 

Calling on Menorah to revise its policy “as soon as possible”, he said it should make efforts to ensure any disadvantage caused by the current admissions arrangements for this September should be minimised.

The complaint was brought by an anonymous member of the public. 


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