The U.K. government has issued two formal orders about education that could potentially have a huge impact on Jewish schools in the United Kingdom.
The first is from the Department of Education entitled, “Operating the Independent School Regulatory System.” Part of the information provided with an order is an assessment of the impact if the proposal were to go through. In this case, the Department for Education (DfE) predicts, “This advice will have a disproportionate impact on pupils of the ultra-Orthodox faith.” It suggests that the “change of policy is likely to result in more such schools being subjected to enforcement action.”
Amazingly, the document then continues by suggesting that although there might be “short term disruption for pupils and their families” presumably caused by schools being closed down, “ultimately this would be in the interests of the children involved.”
How is this disruption to be settled? The DfE says that “even though children may have to move schools, or go to a different school, and this might not be the school of the families’ choice, the enforcement action would ultimately be to the benefit of children with the specified characteristics because they are entitled to attend a school which offers a satisfactory education, whether that is another independent school or a state school.” Parents will be reassured to know that “places are available in the state sector for any child of compulsory school age living in England.”
The second order is the Integrated Communities Green Paper, which also contains proposals that cause great concern to the chareidi kehillah. Here, once again, the issues surrounding teaching children about protected characteristics arise.
Perhaps even more of a concern is the passage that states: “Pupils have the right to manifest a religion or belief, but not necessarily at all times, in all places or in a particular manner.” Community members say that one can see that if a particular belief leads to violence or destruction of property, then this cannot be accommodated, and in fact the order says: “The freedom to practice religion needs to be balanced against the rights and freedoms of others.”
However, it seems very likely that this is not the only case to which the document refers and in general, this is a very worrying statement, and one that does not sit well along with the offer of places in state schools, should Jewish schools be closed down!
Both of these orders close on June 5.
Askanim are urging the kehillah to respond, saying the outcome may have a major impact on our children and our way of life.
Readers may respond to the report via the following links:
https://consult.education.gov.uk/school-frameworks/operating-the-independent-school-regulatory-system/ for the DfE consultation and
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/integrated-communities-strategy-green-paper for the Integrated Communities Green Paper.
Readers may respond to the Integrated Communities consultation by emailing IntegrationStrategy@communities.gsi.gov.uk
or by writing to:
Integration Strategy Team
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2nd Floor, North West
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Forms for the Independent Schools consultation can be emailed to Independentschools.firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to:
Independent Education and Boarding Team
Department for Education
Darlington DL1 5QE