Schools in corporal punishment claim
FORMER MEMBERS of the Charedi community have told the government that some unregistered Orthodox schools and yeshivot are using corporal punishment on their pupils.
The GesherEU Support Network, a charity set up to help people leave the strictly Orthodox community, called for tighter control over such institutions in a submission to a Department for Education consultation.
The charity said it believed that “corporal punishment is still in use in a number of the yeshivot and unregistered ultra-Orthodox primary schools” in which it estimated as many as 4,000 boys and 1,500 girls could be studying.
Its evidence included the anonymous testimony of someone said to have attended one such primary school.
He claimed: “We would sit all day long and study religious texts. No secular studies were taught at all.
“The hygiene standards were awful. The toilets stank; I never ever used them during all these years and I suffered terribly from issues involving holding back. The food was hardly edible, the classrooms were old, and overcrowded.
“Hitting children was part of routine; I personally was hit almost on a daily basis.”
Corporal punishment was banned in British state schools in 1987, and in all private schools by 2003.
GesherEU told the DfE that it believed that unauthorised schools and yeshivot “do not promote British values and do not equip their students for life in modern Britain.
“In many cases they do not even teach them to speak English or simple arithmetic. They teach in Yiddish.
“We have to support young men that do not have one GCSE to their name, cannot get a job, and have no skills to manage their lives.”
Such institutions should be subject to Ofsted inspections and pupils should take the same tests in English, maths and science as they do in state-aided primary schools, the charity said.
But it accused Ofsted of failing to bring about change even in some registered Charedi independent schools which continued “to teach only in Yiddish, indoctrinate the young children and fail to teach the basics”.
It is illegal to teach children under the age of 16 in an unregistered school for 20 or more hours a week, although some yeshivot have argued that they do not qualify as schools.
The consultation — which closed this week — was launched by the DfE over plans to extend registration and inspection to part-time institutions teaching more than six to eight hours a week.
In theory, that could include some synagogue religion classes although the vast majority do not teach that many hours.
In its response to the consultation, Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said it remained concerned about anecdotal evidence of anti-Jewish teaching in some Muslim supplementary schools.
He said that there were “no concerns about extremism being taught in Jewish supplementary schools or in Jewish youth groups”.
Nava Kestenbaum, of the Charedi Interlink Foundation, said: “I am not aware of any Orthodox Jewish schools or yeshivas that use corporal punishment, nor would it be condoned.”
Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, one of the senior educational figures in the community, said: “No school or cheder of any sort has a policy of corporal punishment. If there were an allegation, it would be dealt with very seriously.”
Hitting children was routine. I was hit almost on a daily basis.