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Ofsted slams Jewish school for segregating boys and girls

King David High School in Manchester. Photo credit Joshgoldman.

Ofsted has graded a Jewish faith school inadequate for unlawful segregation and providing pupils with different curriculums according to sex and levels of religious observance. The King David High School in Manchester – which had previously been rated outstanding – was criticised for making ‘separate educational and social arrangements for pupils in different sections of the school’ that mean they ‘suffer detriment’ on the grounds of sex, as well as faith and belief.

In 2015 Humanists UK had a complaint about the school’s discriminatory admissions policy upheld by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, and that complaint included challenging sex discrimination that happened as a consequence of the internal segregation. After that decision, Humanists UK referred the school on to Ofsted. Today it has welcomed the new judgement but expressed disappointment that King David, which is organised into two distinct streams – the religious Yavneh stream, where boys and girls are educated separately, and the main school, which is co-educational and provides a broader range of secular curriculum subjects – has been operating in this way for a considerable number of years without sanction.

In the report, inspectors noted that both Yavneh boys and Yavneh girls ‘are taught a narrower range of GCSE subjects than other pupils’ meaning they ‘miss out on the educational benefits’ of those subjects. Within the Yavneh stream, there is further disadvantage between the sexes. Girls and boys are not permitted to ‘freely learn and socialise with members of the opposite sex’ so also miss out on the benefits of this kind of interaction. Yavneh girls are provided with a less comprehensive curriculum in religious studies and ‘cannot take part in the same range of extra-curricular activities as other pupils’. Indeed, inspectors found that while pupils from the main school and Yavneh boys were permitted to participate in a school drama production, Yavneh girls were excluded, with the school saying that they would be able to present their own concert later in the year.

Earlier this year, Hasmonean High School, another Jewish school that segregates girls and boys was given the go-ahead by the Department for Education to ‘de-merge’ into two single-sex schools. The decision came after a judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal in October 2017 found a Muslim school in Birmingham was acting unlawfully by segregating students according to sex. In 2015, Hasmonean was also found by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator to be in breach of the School Admissions Code, over sex discrimination in its admission arrangements, after a complaint from Humanists UK.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham said: ‘We are pleased to learn Ofsted has finally recognised that the way King David High School is organised unlawfully disadvantages some of its pupils, particularly girls. It is astonishing that the school has been permitted not only to segregate pupils by sex and levels of religious observance, but to offer pupils vastly different curriculums as well as extra-curricular activities according to these characteristics.

‘Regardless of whether a school is mixed or single-sex, pupils should be able to expect equal opportunities to participate in the communal life of that school, as well as study a broad and balanced curriculum. To deny them this chance is not only discriminatory, but amounts to a failure to prepare them for a life in modern Britain.’

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 our most recent article on gender segregation at Hasmonean High School.

Read our news item on schools breaking the law on gender segregation.

Read our last news item on segregation at the Al-Hijrah school.

Read more about our education campaigns work.

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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