The National Jewish Assembly (NJA) is concerned by reports that Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills), the education watchdog in the UK, has been accused of adopting an unnecessarily harsh approach towards Charedi schools – causing significant costs and strain on leadership capacity, and creating pressure on school staff and students.
Gavriel Solomons, Chairman of the NJA’s Jewish Life Committee and Vice Chairman of Young NJA, said “Ofsted is ostensibly an apolitical organisation focussed on ensuring good standards at schools. Unfortunately, actions in recent years would seem to suggest that it is often more interested in enforcing progressive social ideals than recognising educational quality. In a society which values religious freedom and pluralism, traditional groups should be free to pass on their beliefs and practices to the next generation. It should be ensured that Ofsted does not in future exceed its responsibilities or allow individuals to abuse their positions. Rather, Ofsted must treat Charedi schools equally and reasonably, and focus on ensuring objective educational standards.”
The requirement to teach LGBT content has allegedly become a point of contention between the education authorities and Charedi institutions for several years. Charedi educators have expressed concerns that a number of independent secondary schools that have been assessed positively in most aspects have nevertheless received a lower grading of “requires improvement” mainly because they do not address LGBT issues.
The NJA notes that Ofsted’s approach to RSE (relationships and sex education) has also been deemed inflexible and intransigent by Charedi educators. Ofsted acknowledges that there are areas of improvement in its approach, and is committed to working with Charedi schools and educators to ensure that it follows its own guidance for inspections and that schools are graded fairly.
The NJA also notes that the cross-communal Partnerships for Jewish Schools (Pajes) has raised similar concerns with Ofsted and the extent to which it is following its own guidelines for inspections.
The NJA encourages both Ofsted and Charedi schools to work cooperatively in applying fair and objective assessment criteria to ensure optimal educational standards are met.
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