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Illegal ‘faith’ schools reportedly given more than £100,000 in public funding

Last year the BHA and BBC Newsnight conducted a joint investigation into the illegal schools

Unregistered ‘faith’ schools suspected by the Government as operating illegally have received more than £100,000 in public funding, it has been reported.  

Freedom of information requests submitted by The Independent found that £116,750 of Big Lottery Fund money has been awarded to seven strictly Orthodox Charedi Jewish schools that feature on a Government list of suspected unregistered schools. The seven grant applications made by the schools were reportedly all for activities held outside of normal school hours, though such settings are known to have school days far longer than usual, often lasting from as early as 6am to as late as 10pm or 11pm.  

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has led the campaign for greater action on illegal religious schools in recent years and continues to work with former pupils of these settings to bring their experiences to the attention of both the public and the Government. Last year the BHA revealed that one such illegal school had been allowed to remain open for 40 years whilst teaching a ‘culturally and ethnically insular’ curriculum, despite repeated Ofsted inspections reporting that the school was not meeting, or even seeking to meet, the minimum standards for private schools.

And in March 2016 an investigation carried out by the BHA found that a number of illegal Charedi schools were officially registered as charities with the Charity Commission – with charitable objects making it clear they were providing education – even though the Government were aware they were operating illegally. The Charity Commission are understood to still be investigating, although nearly a year on none of the settings involved in the BHA’s expose appear to have had their charity status revoked. Indeed, according to a Big Lottery Fund spokesperson, some of the schools featured in this latest Independent report were deemed to be eligible for funding precisely because they were registered as charities.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘It is vital that the public and politicians alike understand exactly what this public money has contributed to funding. These illegal schools espouse an isolationist, misogynistic, and homophobic ethos, they provide almost no education beyond the study of scripture, the children attending them grow up unable to speak English and leave almost completely unprepared to exist in the outside world, and former pupils of the schools report that “physical punishment is commonplace”.

‘Any public funding being received by these settings must clearly be discontinued immediately, and both the DfE and the Big Lottery Fund must investigate how this was allowed to happen. But the bigger scandal here is that illegal religious schools are allowed to continue operating in the  first place despite their existence and whereabouts being so well known to the authorities. For the sake of the children trapped in them, this is ultimately what the Government must address, and we will continue to push for it to do that.’  

Notes

For further comment or information please contact the BHA’s Faith Schools Campaigner Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3078.

Read The Independent’s full report: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/illegal-faith-schools-lottery-funding-claim-suspected-a7574211.html

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘BHA exposé: unregistered “faith” schools enjoying charitable status despite operating illegaly’: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/03/31/bha-expose-unregistered-faith-schools-enjoying-charitable-status-despite-operating-illegally/

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.

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