Judge upholds ban on private religious school admitting new pupils

A private religious school in north London has lost its appeal against a Department for Education (DfE) order banning it from admitting new pupils until the standard of education it provides is improved. Beis Aharon in Stamford Hill was previously criticised by Ofsted for not providing sufficient teaching in ‘secular subjects such as English, history, and personal, social, and health education (PSHE), meaning pupils ‘were not able to develop fluency in reading, writing and spoken English’, and were ‘not adequately prepared for the responsibilities of adult life’. The DfE decided to ban the school from taking new pupils in the wake of these reports, a decision which a Care Standards tribunal deemed both ‘proportionate and necessary’ after the school appealed. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the tribunal’s ruling and encouraged the DfE to continuing taking action when similar failings are found in other schools.

Drawing particular attention to certain aspects of the school’s policy on PSHE and sex and relationships education (SRE), the judge noted with concern the ‘evidence that pupils learn in school that women showing bare arms and legs are impure’, which he said meant the school ‘fails to encourage respect for women and girls’. The school’s failure to even make children aware that ‘some people are different because of sexual orientation or gender reassignment’ was also criticised by the judge, who stated that it is ‘no defence’ to claim that even minimal teaching in this area ‘is incompatible with the faith of the institution’, given that it is required by the independent school standards.

In response to the school’s claim that progress had been made in meeting the standards, for instance by introducing the teaching of English in years one to four, the tribunal stated that it was ‘still far from persuaded that the school has applied itself to the scale of the changes required’, and ‘cancellation of registration’ as a school remained a possibility if the school failed to make improvements. Charedi children have the ‘same right to an education which meets the standards set for independent schools as any other child attending any other independent school’, the judge said.

The BHA’s Faith Schools Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘We absolutely support the decision of both the DfE and the Care Tribunal here, and would add that it doesn’t matter if it’s a Jewish school, a Muslim school, or a Christian school – if children are being denied the right to a broad and balanced education and if they are not being imbued with tolerance and respect for those with whom they share a society, changes have to be made. We will continue to support the good work that the DfE and Ofsted have done on this score in recent months.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3078.

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘Private religious school failed by Ofsted for teaching young earth creationism as science’: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/04/21/private-religious-school-failed-by-ofsted-for-teaching-young-earth-creationism-as-science/

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘BHA reveals illegal Jewish school allowed to stay open for years despite repeated Ofsted warnings’: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/01/15/bha-reveals-illegal-jewish-school-allowed-to-stay-open-for-years-despite-repeated-ofsted-warnings/

Read more about the BHA’s work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.