Charedi boys are missing out on secular education
Latest tables show striking differences in the amount of secular education given in Orthodox schools
STRIKING DIFFERENCES in the amount of secular education being given by strictly Orthodox schools are apparent in this year’s secondaryschool league tables.
The two best-performing Jewish schools in the country at GSCE level — in terms of the average points per pupil — are both strictly Orthodox independent girls’ schools in London: the Menorah High School in Dollis Hill and the Lubavitch Senior Girls’ School in Stamford Hill.
But the figures also reveal that in some schools pupils are taking few, if any, GCSEs at all — and Charedi boys generally receive far less secular education than girls.
Esther Pearlman, head of Menorah, which opened six years ago, said: “We’re thrilled at our performance. We have a fantastic team of dedicated teachers who are really concerned with the development of each child.”
The school’s GCSE score of 523 is the equivalent of 10 grade As for every girl. Pupils devote a third of the week to Jewish studies and take GCSEs in biblical Hebrew, modern Hebrew and religious studies.
Rabbi S h muel Lew, h e a d o f Lubavitch Senior Girls’, which also scored above 500 at GCSE, said: “We have put a lot of effort in enhancing our general-studies programme over the last few years. We had a number of very good girls last year.”
The academic results are all the more impressive given that Jewish studies occupy half the timetable (including biblical Hebrew and religious studies GCSE).
By contrast, at one of the largest Hackney Orthodox schools, the Beis Rochel d’Satmar, just two per cent of girls attain five GCSE grades at A*- C, reflecting a much lower emphasis there on secular studies.
The difference between girls and boys in the Charedi community is evident from the example of the Yesodey Hatorah Schools in Hackney. Threequarters of the girls’ school, which became state-aided in 2005, achieved at least five GCSEs at A*- C, with a high average points score of 468 for the 45 pupils.
The boys’ section, however, scored just 105 on average, and there were just seven boys in the GCSE year — indicative of the fact that many Charedi boys begin yeshivah at a young age.
At the Gateshead Boarding School for boys, only 13 per cent achieved five or more GCSEs.
While Lubavitch boys may attain fewer formal secular qualifications at school than girls, Rabbi Lew commented: “Our children are educated to be able to use their minds and study, whatever the subject is. We try to gear them towards being able to go into whatever profession they want. Some will go into professions, some into business, many into activities to help the community.”
Rabbi Avraham Pinter, principal of Yesodey Hatorah schools in Stamford Hill, was disappointed at his school’s showing: “We were second in the country two years’ running four years ago.
“Really, only the value-added table has any meaning because it shows you are making a difference. The tables are not helpful because they do not encourage schools to welcome children with special needs who are more challenging. Our aim is to turn out children with a love of Judaism, with good traits and social responsibility.”
Asked why Yesodey Hatorah has listed only seven boys for the end of the GCSE year, Rabbi Pinter explained: “There are about 750 girls and only about 250 boys in the Yesodey Hatorah schools. However, the secondary boys’ school is going through a restructuring, with a new headmaster, and when it is finished the numbers will increase.”
He felt that the poverty that affected many families in the Charedi community did not affect the education of the community’s children.