Na­jos urges Gov­ern­ment to curb anti-faith school group cam­paigns

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

THE GOV­ERN­MENT is con­sid­er­ing lim­it­ing the abil­ity of sec­u­lar groups to chal­lenge the en­try poli­cies of faith schools, ac­cord­ing to a par­tic­i­pant at a re­cent Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion meet­ing.

A num­ber of Jewish and other stateaided reli­gious schools have been forced to amend their ad­mis­sions rules over the past year af­ter com­plaints to the Of­fice of Schools Ad­ju­di­ca­tor made by groups such as the Bri­tish Hu­man­ist As­so­ci­a­tion.

But Jonathan Rab­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ortho­doxJewishS­chools, who at­tended a meet­ing of faith groups at the DfE last week, be­lieved that change could be on the cards.

In a re­port back to col­leagues af­ter the meet­ing, he said that “min­is­ters have an ap­petite to change the Schools Jonathan Rab­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Na­jos Ad­mis­sions Code to pre­vent or­gan­i­sa­tions that have no con­nec­tion with the school (like the BHA) from rais­ing ob­jec­tions to the OSA”.

Mr Rab­son said this week that he would wel­come such a move be­cause “it has been tak­ing a lot of time and money, which the schools do not have, to re­spond to th­ese par­tic­u­lar at­tacks on schools of a reli­gious des­ig­na­tion”. A DfE spokesman would not com­ment on what he called a pri­vate meet­ing, but added that while there were plans to amend the Ad­mis­sions Code this year, it re­lated only to the ques­tion of sum­mer-born chil­dren.

Also dis­cussed at the meet­ing last week was the Gov­ern­ment’s plan to ex­tend Of­sted in­spec­tions to sup­ple­men­tary re­li­gion schools as part of a new count e r - e x t r e m i s m strat­egy. Mr R a b - s o n t o l d c o l - leagues t h a t “we have to watch care­fully if this is go­ing to give gov­ern­ment pow­ers to in­ter­vene with or in­spect syn­a­gogue He­brew Classes, sports clubs, yeshivah ke­tanos [ju­nior yeshivot] and reg­u­lar af­ter- school pro­grammes”.

W h i l e Na­jos has no ob­jec­tion to the aim of root­ing out ha­tred and in­tol­er­ance, it has been dis­turbed by t he r e c e nt ex­pe­ri­ences of Jewish schools dur­ing their Of­sted in­spec­tions.

Some Of­sted in­spec­tors, it be­lieves, have gone be­yond the brief to en­sure that schools teach “fun­da­men­tal Bri­tish val­ues” by sug­get­ing that the schools shoud be teach­ing about al­ter­na­tive life­styles con­trary to the school’s reli­gious ethos.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion said last year that “Jewish val­ues and ethos are be­ing ques­tioned by in­spec­tors in a cli­mate of hos­til­ity”.

But Mr Rab­son said this week that he was pleased that the depart­ment was set­ting up a work­ing party to re­view the Bri­tish val­ues agenda.

‘Min­is­ters have an ap­petite to change the School Ad­mis­sions Code’

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