Of­sted goes after yeshivot

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY SI­MON ROCKER

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.”

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