Inadequacies of a Jewish faith school exposed in a new report
Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School, a London state-aided Chasidic school headed by principal Rabbi Avraham Pinter, above, has fallen foul of the UK education watchdog, Ofted, for censoring textbooks, failing to teach about reproduction in science and doing too little to encourage respect for other groups of people.
According to this report, Ofsted said the school had “blanked out” pictures in books about major artists such as Picasso, redacted passages in Sherlock Holmes and would not allow girls to visit a gallery such as Tate Modern.
Pinter, says the report, had an “over-generous” view of its educational quality and governors did not hold him to account.
The inspection has already proved controversial before the report following a complaint from Humanists UK that the school had blotted out reference to homosexuals in a history textbook on the Nazis.
When inspectors, having carried out a routine visit, returned to the school a few days later to make further inquiries, Rabbi Pinter wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May saying that Charedi schools were being hounded by the government.
In its report published this week, Ofsted said:
Some pupils’ study of history in Year nine this year has been restricted to the Second World War, which is just one aspect of the key stage three history programme of study.
In English at key stage four, large sections of the GCSE course text book have been deemed as inappropriate and have been redacted.
In addition, texts such as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ have had sections of text redacted. In science, pupils are not permitted to study animal or human reproduction and other areas such as global warming are restricted. Leaders do not fulfil their statutory duty to provide sex and relationships education.
According to Ofsted:
Photographs portraying men and women on the same page, for instance in a crowd, had been redacted. Paragraphs in English comprehension passages had been redacted. Whole chapters in some texts had been stuck together. For instance, in a text on Elizabethan England, leaders had redacted sections relating to the queen’s supremacy and the Puritan challenge.
The principal and governors did not adequately promote equality of opportunity or diversity, Ofsted said.
They do not encourage pupils’ respect for all other people, because they do not provide sufficient opportunities for pupils to learn about different faiths, experiences, cultures or perspectives.
Consequently, while there is an ethos of respect and tolerance for each other within the school environment, pupils have few opportunities to explore how these would extend to those who do not share their beliefs or faith.
While the school’s policy on respecting other people included those of different faiths or with a disability:
It does not encourage respect for all citizens living in modern Britain, because it does not acknowledge the existence of all groups of people with protected characteristics.
Protected characteristics under equality law include same-sex orientation and transgender status.
Pupils were not given opportunities:
To socialise with pupils from different communities, religions, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds or with boys. For example, pupils have no opportunity to compete in inter-school sport, participate in events or visit universities.
Responding to Ofsted’s findings, Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman said:
This is what happens when religion is given almost untrammelled influence over the education of children. The purpose of a school is to educate its pupils, promote their development and well-being, and ensure that when they leave the school gates, they are prepared for life in a modern, diverse society.
The purpose of this school – and there are others like it – appears to be the entrenchment of a homophobic, misogynistic, intolerant, and isolationist ethos, designed to limit its pupils rather than allow them to flourish. It is a tragedy that so many children have been and are being subjected to schools of this kind. The Government must start closing them down.
The latest report highlights the clash of values between the secular education authorities and the Charedi establishment.
Ofsted’s approach has been criticised outside the Charedi community. The Reverend Giles Fraser, the Anglican priest and religious commentator, who visited the school in spring, commented in a blog:
This issue is not just about the Haredim. Ofsted has it in for Muslim schools in much the same way. Indeed, armed with so-called ‘British values’ they are gaining a reputation to have it in for all schools of a religious character. And the secularists are delighted that Ofsted is now doing their bidding.
From what I saw at Yesodet Hatorah, it is Speilman* and Ofsted who are behaving like the school bully. For it is Ofsted that has failed to understand the most basic feature of their own values: respect and toleration. Indeed, if British values cannot accommodate a peaceful and law abiding group like the Haredim then these values are little to be proud of.
* Fraser was referring to Amanda Spielman, Head of Ofsted.