WorryoverOfstedplan to inspect faith schools
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.”