Family & Education

Tory manifesto puts obstacle in the way of Jewish free schools

Schools will have to prove they are open to children of other religions or none


New rules proposed in the Conservative manifesto could make it difficult to set up strictly Orthodox free schools.

While the Tories have promised to give new faith schools more control over admissions, schools will still have to “prove that parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that school”.

Both measures were initially floated in last autumn’s Green Paper on education.

At the time, strictly Orthodox representatives welcomed the relaxation of admissions regulations, hoping it would pave the way for applications for Charedi free schools.

But the requirement, now cemented as a manifesto commitment, that new schools should be sufficiently open to children from other faiths, could prove a stumbling-block to the more Orthodox sections of the Jewish community.

Quite how faith schools would “prove” their openness to children from outside their own community is not explained in the manifesto.

If the Conservatives are returned to power, the detail would no doubt be a matter of negotiation before any legislation is passed.

But the manifesto has confirmed the intention to lift the current restrictions, whereby free faith schools can select only half their children on the basis of faith.

The earlier promise, in the Green Paper, to lift the admissions quota, was welcomed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

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