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Schools back Chief’s plan to teach Islam

    JFS headteacher Jonathan Miller
    JFS headteacher Jonathan Miller

    Europe's largest Jewish school, JFS, is to follow the recommendation of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and teach Islam to GCSE students from next September.

    Rabbi Mirvis suggested last week that schools under his auspices choose Islam for GCSE religious studies to meet the government's new requirement to cover a second faith.

    JFS headteacher Jonathan Miller said: "While we remain concerned that adequate time be given to the study of Judaism, we welcome the guidance of the Chief Rabbi in helping us to decide that Islam will be the second religion taught. Our students will relish this addition."

    Another London Jewish school, King Solomon High in Redbridge - which admits a large number of pupils from other faiths - welcomed the guidance and implied that Islam would be taught.

    Headteacher Matthew Solomon said: "We are committed to supporting our students' understanding of British values, of which tolerance and acceptance of other faiths is fundamental.

    Jonathan Rabson, National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools executive director
    Jonathan Rabson, National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools executive director

    "We believe this will support our community in tackling discrimination and prejudice."

    While King David High School in Manchester has also indicated its preference for Islam, Yavneh College in Hertforshire is considering its options.

    But Jonathan Rabson, National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools executive director, said the umbrella group "continues to regard the introduction of the requirement of a second faith in the teaching of religious studies GCSE as an unwarranted intrusion into religious freedoms in our schools".

    Rabbi David Meyer of Partnerships for Jewish Schools (Pajes) said: "The challenges of the new curriculum have been discussed at length and following the Chief Rabbi's decision it is likely a number of the schools will be opting to teach Islam as the second religion.

    "Pajes will be running a series of training sessions in order to help prepare the teachers and enable them to deliver this element of the RS syllabus."

    Rabbi Mirvis had last year argued against the government's plan to require more than one religion in the GCSE course, arguing that Jewish schools needed the time to devote to Judaism.

    Board of Deputies chief executive Gillian Merron also warned that the move would prove difficult for Orthodox schools.

    But from next autumn pupils will have to study a second religion for a quarter of the course.

    A Muslim Council of Britain spokesman welcomed the Chief Rabbi's recommendation and said it would "improve understanding of Islam, which is often poorly perceived in society due to heavy negative coverage of the religion.

    "This would pave the way to build better and stronger relations between communities, foster unity and create a better awareness of what Islam truly stands for."

    Catholic schools in England have been advised to teach Judaism as their second GCSE religion.

    According to the Catholic Education Service, in order to allow pupils "to gain a thorough understanding of the more than 2,000 years of Catholic theology and culture, the teaching of Judaism is essential. After all, Jesus himself was Jewish."

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