Wor­ry­overOf­st­ed­plan to in­spect faith schools

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

GOVERN­MENT PLANS to reg­is­ter and in­spect part-time schools and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions are “a sledge­ham­mer to crack a nut”, an or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing Ortho­dox Jewish schools has warned.

The pro­posal, which is de­signed to counter the spread of ex­trem­ism, could prove too costly and com­plex, the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ortho­dox Jewish Schools (Na­jos) said in its re­sponse to a con­sul­ta­tion from the Depart­ment for Education.

The govern­ment’s plan to reg­is­ter and in­spect in­sti­tu­tions that teach more than six to eight hours a week could in­clude syn­a­gogue He­brew classes, youth groups and yeshivot.

But while Na­jos sup­ported the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of ex­trem­ism in “any set­ting”, it ar­gued that the re­spon­si­bil­ity for this should not be placed in the hands of the schools’ in­spec­tion ser­vice Of­sted.

In its sub­mis­sion, Na­jos said that “all Jewish outof-school set­tings Na­jos ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor JonathanRab­son are law-abid­ing and do not pro­mote ex­trem­ism. Our set­tings should not be tarred with the same brush as set­tings that have been found to pro­mote ex­trem­ism”.

The govern­ment’s plan, it ar­gued, would play into the hands of sec­u­lar­ist cam­paign groups “who want to en­cour­age the scare­mon­ger­ing myth that all religious set­tings are ex­clu­sive and har­bour and pro­mote ex­trem­ist views” .

A blan­ket reg­is­tra­tion and in­spec­tion re­quire­ment would be “un­wieldly and like a sledge­ham­mer to crack a nut,” it stated.

Charedi in­sti­tu­tions, Na­jos said, have “a strong sense of loy­alty to Bri­tain, the monar­chy and Bri­tish val­ues and th­ese are pro­moted from a young age, and re­in­forced through ed­u­ca­tional, syn­a­gogue and faith set­tings out of school and in prayer”.

They pro­moted “re­spect and tol­er­ance of oth­ers — what­ever their colour, cul­ture, re­li­gion, or ori­en­ta­tion,” which was a ba­sic Jewish con­cept taught in the Bi­ble and re­in­forced by rab­binic teach­ing.

Set­ting out its ob­jec­tions to Of­sted, Na­jos said that “our ex­pe­ri­ence in re­cent years of Of­sted con­duct­ing in­spec­tions of faith schools, in­clud­ing those in the Jewish com­mu­nity, is that Of­sted in­spec­tors do not have suf­fi­cient un­der­stand­ing, train­ing and sen­si­tiv­ity to in­spect out-of-school set­tings — they will not ap­pre­ci­ate the cul­tural con­text, nor un­der­stand the lan­guage and teach­ings that are be­ing em­ployed in our faith-based set­tings”.

Na­jos also ex­pressed con­cern at the way in­spec­tors have in­ter­preted the govern­ment’s Bri­tish val­ues agenda when as­sess­ing if in­sti­tu­tions are ad­e­quately pro­mot­ing them.

“That Bri­tish val­ues can in­clude con­cepts like Dar­win­ism and mod­ern sci­en­tific the­ory, which chal­lenges our core be­liefs, causes great un­ease to us as it sug­gests our religious val­ues could be seen to be ‘un-Bri­tish’,” Na­jos stated. “We see this as a lack of re­spect and tol­er­ance for faith.

“We feel that this guid­ance high­lights how Bri­tish val­ues and pro­mo­tion of faith views have be­come un­com­fort­ably linked, blurred and indis­tinct from each other. This pro­posal is un­ac­cept­able to us in that it con­tin­ues to pro­mote this at­ti­tude for out-of-school pro­vi­sion — some­thing that must re­main in the do­main of parental choice.”

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