Of­sted re­port raps faith teach­ing

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

IN­DE­PEN­DENT FAITH schools must work harder to en­sure text­books used to teach about other faiths are ac­cu­rate and un­bi­ased, ac­cord­ing to an Of­sted re­port.

In­spec­tors vis­ited 51 pri­vate faith schools and found that some teach­ing ma­te­ri­als had in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion about other re­li­gions.

The Board of Deputies wel­comed the re­port, say­ing it gave a “strong en­dorse­ment” of the gen­eral work of faith schools and the “real and pos­i­tive ef­forts to ad­dress is­sues of cit­i­zen­ship and co­he­sion”.

The re­port was or­dered by Schools Sec­re­tary Ed Balls in March af­ter con­cerns were raised about teach­ing at in­de­pen­dent faith schools.

The in­spec­tors looked at how schools de­velop pupils’ spir­i­tual, moral, so­cial and cul­tural un­der­stand­ing. Pupils at all the schools were found to have a “strong sense of iden­tity and of be­long­ing to their faith, their school and to Bri­tain”.

Miriam Rosen, Of­sted ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said: “All schools have an im­por­tant role in pre­par­ing their pupils for life in mod­ern Bri­tain.”

But the re­port noted that at a small num­ber of schools some teach­ing ma­te­ri­als con­tained “bi­ased or in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion about the be­liefs of other re­li­gions”.

At one Mus­lim school, word­ing used to de­scribe the sit­u­a­tion in the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries in­cluded “in­flam­ma­tory lan­guage”. At a Jewish school, pupils wrote in “strong lan­guage” de­scrib­ing the cur­rent cli­mate in the Mid­dle East.

The re­port did not spec­ify what the chil­dren at ei­ther school wrote.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors found that in most cases sen­si­tive and con­tro­ver­sial top- ics were dealt with “ef­fec­tively” by staff who had to man­age pupils’ emo­tions where there was a link to events in the Mid­dle East.

It quoted an ex­am­ple of girls in a Jewish school who held views of Pales­tini­ans which were in­flu­enced by events af­fect­ing rel­a­tives in Is­rael.

Where there was di­rect per­sonal con­tact with con­flict, Of­sted said, there was “a re­luc­tance to move from their pre-formed ideas”.

Board chief ex­ec­u­tive Jon Ben­jamin said in­de­pen­dent faith schools were mak­ing “real and pos­i­tive ef­forts to ad­dress is­sues of cit­i­zen­ship and co­he­sion”. But he said the board was aware of cases of Jewish chil­dren be­ing bul­lied in main­stream schools when de­bates on for­eign af­fairs turned into vic­tim­i­sa­tion and name-call­ing.

Of­sted could not re­veal which schools had been vis­ited, or how many of them had been Jewish.

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