Ofsted goes after yeshivot
AMANDA SPIELMAN, the head of the school inspection service Ofsted, has reiterated her call for new laws to crack down on unregistered yeshivot in her annual report.
Although the first successful prosecution of an unregulated educational setting, a Muslim learning centre, took place earlier this year, the chief inspector said the current law was still too weak to close down institutions or prosecute those running them.
Some unregulated faith settings “such as yeshivas and madrasas”, she said, were providing religious instructions for five and sometimes six days a week “from early in the morning to late into the evening”. In these cases, it was “perverse that the narrower the curriculum provision, the safer such a setting is from prosecution. Similarly, a lack of proper definition around what constitutes full-time education allows providers to engage in a game of cat and mouse with our inspectors and to continue running these potentially dangerous institutions.”
Ofsted, she said, had spoken to “young people who have left these settings unable to read English and without basic mathematical skills”.
The inspection service had investigated around half of the 480 suspected illegally operating schools referred to it. Many were based in badly maintained or unsafe buildings where checks had not been made on the suitability of staff.
Unregistered yeshivot, however, argue they are not schools according to the current legal definition and are therefore beyond reach of Ofsted.
In her report, Mrs Spielman also welcomed government plans to toughen the inspection of independent schools, including some Charedi schools.
Over the past three years, 88 independent schools had declined to inadequate and 12 retained their inadequate rating, she said. It was “clear that many of these schools do not have the capacity to improve or to sustain improvement.”