An Ofsted report has criticized two Jewish schools in London for not meeting the minimum educational standards set by the British education watchdog.
Ofsted inspectors visited the Beis Aharon School in January, which constituted the second follow-up since a full inspection in November of 2014. The inspectors concluded that the school was failing on multiple levels, including students' welfare, health, safety, and quality of education.
There are 347 boys aged three to thirteen enrolled at Beis Aharon. The £2,860-a-year independent institution received strong criticism from Ofsted for not encouraging mutual respect and tolerance to people from different religions and cultures, writes Russell Parton of the Hackney Citizen.
According to the detailed report, the word "Christmas" had been crossed out anywhere it appeared in Year 4 books. The education watchdog concluded the school did not prepare children for living in contemporary British society.
The pupils also kept having very conservative and narrow views on the role of the women in modern British life. According to the boys at Beis Aharon School, women were supposed to stay at home, cook, clean the house and raise kids. Although students admitted the lessons were not too difficult for them, the inspectors commented that they were working far below their age expectations.
The report also revealed the school allocated only one hour per day to secular education and subjects such as history and geography, falling well short of Ofsted requirements. It also conflicted with the school policy for "broad and balanced curriculum." As Caroline Mortimer of the Independent noted, the Beis Aharon School was given a list of 34 points from the 2014 Education (Independent School Standards) Regulation to ensure they adjust the curriculum accordingly.
Another independent Orthodox Jewish school in London was also strongly criticized by Ofsted — Yeten Lev school in Stamford Hill. The institution, which is the largest of its kind in the area, has nearly 800 students aged three to thirteen. The main language of instruction at Yeten Lev is Yiddish. During a previous inspection last year, Ofsted reported that the school's narrow religious focus prevented the boys from speaking, writing and reading capably in English. Teachers did not allow children to talk to Ofsted's female inspectors, notes Ryan Tute of the Hackney Gazette. Pictures of women and girls with short sleeves were erased or completely changed, found the inspectors.
The school's senior management commented:
"The school has no intention of providing pupils with experiences to enable them to acquire an appreciation of and respect for differences between people, based on culture, religion, sex and sexual orientation."
Menachem Rephun of the Jewish Political News and Updates writes that some members of the British Jewish community thought the Ultra-Orthodox schools were subject to unfair discrimination from Ofsted. Back in 2014, the National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools even addressed education secretary Nicky Morgan to complain about hostility by Ofsted inspectors towards religious Jewish students and schools.
In response, an Ofsted spokesperson declined the allegations but confirmed the inspectors should make sure the pupils in those schools are prepared for the next step in their education, for employment, and for life in modern Britain.