Family & Education

Stamford Hill Charedi leaders insist child safety in unregistered yeshivot is a top priority

Adviser for Hackney Council says there is "no credible oversight" for pupil protection, but communal figures respond that safeguarding children is paramount and criticise Ofsted's inspection procedures


Charedi leaders in Stamford Hill have insisted child safety is “paramount” in the face of  challenges over the level of protection in unregistered yeshivot.

But they are calling for child protection checks to be kept separate from educational issues because of their ongoing dispute with the inspection service Ofsted.

The safeguarding of young yeshivah students came under the spotlight this week at a meeting of Hackney Council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Commission.

According to the council, there are more than 30 unregistered educational Orthodox institutions in the borough – although the number has been disputed by Charedi sources.

Boys in Stamford Hill commonly attend yeshivot from their early teens, which Charedi leaders have argued do not fall under the legal definition of a school and which do not have the same statutory requirements on safeguarding as registered schools.

Rory McCallum, senior professional adviser for the Hackney and City Safeguarding Children Board (HCSCB), said there was no “credible oversight” in assessing protection policies in unregistered settings.

No community, he said, was immune from the threat of individuals with a “deviant sexual interest in children”.

The HCSCB provides training on child protection and has run workshops for Charedi organisations in the area.

Rabbi Jehudah Baumgarten, a leading figure in local Charedi schools, assured the meeting: “Safeguarding of children in our community is paramount”.

Unregistered institutions, he explained, remained wary of Ofsted because of the problems the inspection service was causing registered Charedi schools.

“There are certain issues which are against our religious beliefs, which Ofsted is trying to force on our schools,” he said.

Charedi schools in Stamford Hill have been repeatedly pulled up by Ofsted for refusing to talk about same-sex relationships as part of the requirement to teach “British values” of respect and tolerance.

Motty Fogel, another Charedi representative, suggested the way forward on safeguarding was that “Ofsted shouldn’t deal with these problems”.

Rabbi Avraham Pinter, the principal of the state-aided Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, said child protection checks should not be voluntary for yeshivot but covered by legislation.

The meeting also heard that two yeshivot in Stamford Hill had been reported by the council to the Healthy and Safety Executive because their premises were “in poor repair with a multitude of building defects and areas of dilapidation”.

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