Policies prompt a mixed outlook

April 23, 2015 12:23

"Inclusive" may seem a welcoming word - but not to Jewish schools. When the Liberal Democrats pledge to introduce "inclusive" admissions policies, they mean that faith schools will no longer be able to give priority to children from their own community.

If the Lib Dems return to coalition with the Conservatives, the policy, just as last time, will go into the freezer. But if they get into bed with Labour, then this shift on faith schools could become a political runner.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, have promised to open 500 new free schools - good news for Jewish groups that have taken advantage of the new system to open state-funded schools without going through the local authority. Seven Jewish free schools have been approved in five years. But some in the Jewish community want the government to go further: the National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools has called for an end to the rule whereby free faith schools can guarantee only half of their places to members of their own religion.

Labour, however, has said it will stop any more free schools, although it has not ruled out further faith schools under the old council umbrella.

Nursery schools stand to benefit whichever party gets in. Labour will extend the free 15 hours a week childcare for three- and four-year-olds to 25 hours a week; the Conservatives will double it to 30 for all working parents; the Lib Dems say they will extend it to two-year-olds and then increase it to 20 hours from two to four-year-olds.

Labour says it will protect GCSE and A-level modern Hebrew, as Tristram Hunt is keen to point out above.

Its plan for compulsory "age-appropriate" relationships and sex education is unlikely to be a winner at the ballot box with the strictly Orthodox, but the policy may pose fewer problems than some think.

Currently, secondary school children are required to learn about human reproduction in science, and parents retain the right to withdraw them from other classes on sex.

A Labour spokesman explained: "Good primary schools already teach their children about respect for others and why bullying is wrong and good secondary schools teach them about issues such as staying safe in relationships and online, and consent.

That's what age-appropriate means. Our policy is to ensure all schools do what the good ones already do."

Read more Election 2015 news here

April 23, 2015 12:23

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