The British government’s Education Department’s inspection arm known as Ofsted is unfairly targeting haredi and hasidic schools, a haredi rabbi who works for Ofsted as an inspector told the National Jewish Education Conference for Primary School Teachers last week.
Haredim Charge British Government Bias
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The British government’s Education Department’s inspection arm known as Ofsted is unfairly targeting haredi and hasidic schools, a haredi rabbi who works for Ofsted as an inspector told the National Jewish Education Conference for Primary School Teachers last week, The JC reported.
Rabbi Nessanel Lieberman, a registered Ofsted inspector since 2009, is also the head of a haredi girls school, Bnos Beis Yaakov School in Kingsbury.
Lieberman claims the government fails to take into account the hours of religious studies students in these hasidic and haredi schools get daily, and says the failure to do so is discriminatory – even though Britain’s education law does not count sectarian religious studies as acceptable education. While it does not ban or discourage such studies, like almost all other western countries, Britain requires that students wherever they study get a basic secular education in a safe environment – the two things haredi and hasidic schools have frequently failed to do.
Nevertheless, Lieberman said the government has “an agenda to knock down our schools, starting with JFS [Jewish Free School] last summer. We are now in the situation where Ofsted is looking for a pretext for inspectors just to turn up.” Ofsted’s goals are a “hodge-podge of left-wing ideals [designed to hurt schools] that don’t conform to their ideology,” Lieberman insisted. He also complained that the government is reticent to send Jewish inspectors like him into Jewish schools.
“Non-Jewish inspectors go into Jewish schools with an interpreter. They write a report that doesn’t reflect kodesh [“holy,” i.e., Jewish religious] studies, even though they may take up to 50 per cent of the school day,” Lieberman said.
The Orthodox and haredi community has launched a new school inspection service, Pikuach (“Lifesaving”) to try to counter the bad inspection reports from the government. Its director, Jeffrey Leader, heard Lieberman speak at the conference and, not surprisingly, agreed with him.
“In a meeting with Ofsted, we were talking about British values. Sandra Teacher from the Board of Deputies [of British Jews, the umbrella organization of British Jewry] told an inspector that some of the schools required women to dress modestly. The inspector replied that the school should adapt and show respect to visiting inspectors. We are now accusing them of double standards,” Leader said.
This summer Ofsted announced it would be increasing unannounced school inspections. One of those inspections led to JFS being downgraded by Ofsted from an “outstanding” school to a school “requiring improvement.”
While haredi leaders see this as bias, unannounced inspections conducted by inspectors who are not connected to the Jewish community repeatedly have found haredi schools deficient, while inspections conducted by inspectors tied to the Jewish community or which are scheduled in advance show the haredi schools performing better than they actually do.
For its part, Ofsted denied it was biased.
“Ofsted is not systematically targeting Jewish faith schools. Maintained schools and academies with a religious character are inspected under the same framework, criteria and timeframe as all other maintained schools and academies. The content of collective worship and denominational education in schools with a religious character is inspected separately under section 48 of the Education Act 2005. Therefore, Ofsted inspectors cannot comment on the content of religious worship or on denominational religious education in maintained schools and academies with a religious character. However, they can comment on the contribution of assemblies and teaching (in any subject with the exception of RE [religious education]) to pupils’ personal and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, and their behaviour and safety,” an Ofstead spokesperson reportedly told The JC.
Haredi schools in Israel, Belgium, Canada, the US and other locations, including Great Britain, have repeatedly refused to provide adequate secular education (or, sometimes, any secular education at all) to their students, causing governments and courts to try to action against them. In Canada and the US, former students of these inadequate haredi schools have recently sued over that lack of secular education while courts in Belgium have threatened to close noncompliant haredi schools.
In response, haredi rabbinic leaders have done everything from cry anti-Semitism to threaten mass civil disobedience and protests.
Haredi employment rates are low, especially in Israel, in part because graduates of these noncompliant haredi school systems are completely unprepared for the modern day job market or for higher education.
Haredi and Orthodox British Jewry has a history of crying anti-Semitism when none appears to exist and of lying to protect its practices. This is especially true with Shechita UK, the community pro-Jewish-religious-slaughter advocacy group and the community’s pro-circumcision arm. The community has also repeatedly covered up cases of child sexual abuse and demonized and harassed alleged victims and their supporters.