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Jewish school which gender segregates pupils set to open separate schools

A co-educational religious state school that segregates girls and boys for the entirety of their education, and which had a history of selecting its students based on the religious strictness of their parents’ sexual activity, has been given the go-ahead by the Department for Education to ‘de-merge’ to two single-sex schools from 1 May 2019.

Hasmonean High School, an Orthodox Jewish secondary school in Barnet, faced criticism in 2017 after it was deemed by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator to be segregating pupils on the basis of gender by teaching them different curriculums and separating them from interacting together.

But in a concerning new move, the Department for Education has permitted the school to split into two single-sex schools, thereby avoiding criticism by Ofsted over its gender segregation.

In a letter dated yesterday to parents and seen by Humanists UK, the school has confirmed that the existing school will split to form two separate schools – Hasmonean High School for Boys, and Hasmonean High School for Girls.

The publicly-funded state school hit the headlines in 2015 after it was found that prospective parents to the school were required to follow the ‘laws of family purity’ which state that a husband and wife may not engage in sexual relations while she was menstruating, and for seven days afterwards. Following an objection by Humanists UK, the Office of the Schools Adjudicator ruled it must ditch the requirement from its admission arrangements. In a similar decision in 2014 the school was found to be directly discriminating on the basis of race under the Equality Act 2010.

Humanists UK, which leads the campaign on faith schools and illegal schools, says segregating students by gender reinforces negative gender stereotypes especially in the contexts of some religions when women’s roles are controlled by rigid and harmful rules on their behaviour.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: ‘It is shameful that the government has permitted a state school to circumvent criticism by Ofsted over its gender segregation in this way. The school no doubt believes it has got off scot-free through this loophole –  but it shouldn’t be allowed to.

‘The school’s new approach still should not be acceptable to Ofsted as it is still teaching boys and girls sex-discriminatory curriculums. That should be unlawful regardless of whether the school is mixed or single-sex. It is also very unlikely that the school will be upholding its duty to prepare children for life in modern Britain if it continues teaching a narrow curriculum.’

A judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal in October 2017 found a Muslim school in Birmingham was acting unlawfully by segregating students by gender.

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

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