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Objections against some aspects of parental dress code in faith school admission policy upheld

A state faith school in London previously exposed by Humanists UK for redacting mentions of same-sex relationships and women’s rights in its textbooks, has been criticised by Office of the Schools Adjudicator for lacking reasonableness, clarity, and objectivity in its admissions policy.

The Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School had applied ‘modesty and holiness’ requirements upon parents applying for a place for their daughters in the school. These requirements prohibited parents from wearing ‘flashy or very brightly coloured clothing,’ denim and other ‘trendy’ fabrics, and mandated that women’s makeup must be ‘discreet.’ The adjudicator ruled these requirements were not sufficiently clear for parents to be able to ‘easily understand’ whether they compiled with them or not. However, disappointingly, the Adjudicator did not find the requirement to have a parental dress code itself to be unlawful. The school will now have two months to amend their admissions code.

However, the adjudicator did not uphold an objection that a prohibition on internet use and television by parents constituted a breach of the school admissions code. The adjudicator classified these restrictions as ‘religious activities’ as laid out by the school’s religious authorities and therefore could be used as criteria to determine which girls could gain a place at this state-funded school.

In March 2018 Humanists UK revealed that the school had been redacting sections of its textbooks to remove mentions of ‘homosexuals’, examples of women socialising with men, and pictures showing women’s shoulders and legs. The textbooks had been passed to Humanists UK by members of the community who are concerned at the content and scope of the education being provided to Charedi children. The school subsequently received an inadequate rating by Ofsted. In 2014, Humanists UK helped expose the same school for censoring exam papers and insisting that all pupils be taught creationism as fact.

Humanists UK’s Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We are pleased that the Office of the Schools Adjudicator has determined that some of the more stringent and ill-defined parental dress code requirements are not lawful. However, we do not think this judgment has gone far enough. Humanists UK believes that all children should have equal access to good local state schools regardless of the religious beliefs of their parents. The fact that some schools are allowed to apply religious requirements entrenches division, segregation, and discrimination in our education system. In the case of Yesodey Hatorah the extent to which these requirements were being used is absurd.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan on rachel@humanism.org.uk or 07951 176 245.

Read the determination of the Office of Schools Adjudicator: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/732714/ADA3361_Yesoday_Hatorah_Senior_Girls_School_Hackney_-_8_August_2018.pdf

Read the Ofsted inspection report: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/files/2781699/urn/133599.pdf

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘State faith school redacts textbooks to remove mentions of “homosexuals” and women’s rights’: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/03/09/state-faith-school-redacts-textbooks-to-remove-mentions-of-homosexuals-and-womens-freedoms/

Read Humanists UK’s 2014 news item ‘Yesodey Hatorah says censoring exam questions “has successfully been in place with the Charedi schools throughout England for many years”’: https://humanism.org.uk/2014/03/28/yesodey-hatorah-says-censoring-exam-questions-successfully-place-within-charedi-schools-throughout-england-many-years/

Read more about our work on faith schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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