Family & Education

Yeshivah regulation delayed as Schools Bill bites the dust

Campaigners in Stamford Hill hold thanksgiving meeting to mark withdrawal of proposals they believe represent an 'existential threat' to the Charedi way of life


Charedi activists welcomed the withdrawal of legislation that would have brought yeshivot under state scrutiny at a thanksgiving event in Stamford Hill on Tuesday.

The ill-fated Schools Bill had run into trouble in the House of Lords and one of its central planks regarding the oversight of academies had already been jettisoned.

But the government has indicated that certain of the measures dealing with safeguarding, school attendance and the introduction of a register for home-schooled children are likely to brought back to Parliament in some form in the future.

Rabbi Asher Gratt, one of the leaders of several recent protests that took place outside Parliament, said parts of the Bill represented “an existential threat” to the Charedi community’s way of life.

“We cannot say that it was the intention of the Department for Education to drive the Charedi community out of England,” he added. “It was nevertheless fully aware that the effect of the legislation would be just that.”

The demise of the Bill was “a big relief for parents who fought tooth and nail for their fundamental responsibilities,” he said.

The Bill was meant to close loopholes that have enabled some 1,500 Charedi boys from 13 to 16 in Hackney to learn in unregulated yeshivot.

If it had become law, yeshivot would be treated as independent schools and forced to teach secular subjects as well as offer relationships and sex education.

The Bill would also have required the registration with the local authority of home-schooled children or those learning in out-of-school settings.

Institutions which teach an exclusively religious curriculum fall outside the current definition of a “school” and therefore escape Ofsted inspections.

But the anti-Bill campaigners will be keeping a watchful eye on what happens next.

Rabbi Gratt noted that Education Secretary Gillian Keegan had made a clear commitment to MPs last week that a register for children not in school would be introduced. 

“We are therefore aware that the DfE will be seeking ways how to implement some of those provisions, perhaps through guidance rather than primary legislation,” he said.

Speakers at yesterday's event included the acting rabbinical leader of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, Rabbi Sholem Friedman, who told the audience that "Hashem is apparently on our side".

READ MORE: The battle over yeshivot is set to continue

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