Seeming Progress in U.K. Chinuch Crisis: Meeting to Be Held With Ofsted

LONDON -
atzeres tefillah london
A view of the tinokos shel Beis Rabban at an atzeres tefillah in London last month, davening to Hashem in light of the chinuch crisis. (Dudi Braun)

Representatives of the British chareidi kehillah are set to meet with Ofsted, the regulatory body for schools, later in the month.

The meeting follows months of distress and uncertainty within the kehillah about Ofsted’s attitude to the way in which chareidi schools teach some aspects of the curriculum, particularly in the area of “British values.”

Ofsted has said that it will “run information sessions for Jewish school leaders about how we inspect schools against the independent school standards and to provide guidance on how standards on fundamental British values and protected characteristics can be met.”

The news follows on from a meeting between Ofsted and representatives of the Jewish community held earlier this week, hosted by Lord Polak, director of the Lubavitch Multi-Academy Trust, based in Stamford Hill, London.

Speaking after the meeting, Rabbi David Meyer, executive director of PaJes [Partnerships for Jewish Schools], said that he hoped that “a way [has been found] for Jewish schools to be true to their ethos and meet the standards expected by Ofsted.”

British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis met with Education Secretary Damian Hinds on Tuesday and is reported to have discussed “pertinent issues and deep concerns regarding Jewish education.”

The British government Department for Education (DfE) has recently concluded a consultation process (requests for comment on proposed regulations) that has greatly alarmed the chareidi community. The DfE proposes to force all schools to include in their curriculum topics and discussions that are anathema to the Torah way of life. Under the proposals, any school that does not comply will be closed.

For several years now, there have been ongoing areas of conflict between the chareidi school system, the Department for Education and Ofsted, the body which is responsible for inspecting schools. Many of them have been ironed out, but there has always been a certain amount of leeway regarding what must be taught, even in a private school, and how many times the schools can be inspected. The schools failed in certain areas and were allowed time for improvement. Now, however, a consultation has taken place, which if implemented, would tighten up the legislation and lead to the closure of most chareidi schools in the U.K., a fact acknowledged by the government.