Join Donate

Education pamphlet endorsed by religious community leaders is ‘manifesto for corporal punishment’ Ofsted head tells inquiry

Photo by Trần Toàn on Unsplash

An education pamphlet, endorsed by religious leaders from the Charedi Jewish community, recommends physical punishment and humiliation of children in schools an independent inquiry has heard.

Humanists UK, which campaigns for the rights and interests of children irrespective of their religious background, has expressed alarm at the document and the fact that corporal punishment appears to be taking place in both registered and unregistered Charedi schools.

The pamphlet, Encouragement to Teachers and Guidance for Parents, formed part of the evidence given by Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, to an Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse hearing on religious organisations and settings held this week. It purports to set out how children should be taught in order that they ‘act properly’ and says that ‘it is required to be angry’ and ‘humiliate’ students to compel good behaviour.

The pamphlet also sets out three levels of corporal punishment, ‘with a small strap for neglecting study… [with] a large staff to steer [the child] away from evil when rebuke is ineffective’ and ‘to hit even if there was no wrongdoing’ on the basis of scriptural precedent. It goes on to say that, ‘the reason for corporal punishment is to knock down the strength of the evil inclination – to put fear into [pupils] – to make them submissive because submission is the foundation to revoke their own opinion and receive the faith.’

Ms Spielman described the pamphlet as ‘a manifesto for corporal punishment’ which spurred urgent investigations into a number of Charedi schools, including one independent school where pupils reported that they had been pinched and slapped by teachers. She also told the inquiry about the litany of problems Ofsted had encountered in its investigations of unregistered  Jewish yeshivas. These included ‘astonishing’ issues with safeguarding and physical hazards such as broken windows, exposed wiring, kitchen knives left lying within easy reach of pupils, and open vermin traps in classrooms. However, due to a lack of legal powers, inspectors are often unable to seize evidence or prevent these settings from operating.

Ms Spielman’s statement also highlighted serious safeguarding issues in unregistered and ‘out of school’ settings with Muslim and Christian character. Case studies illustrated problems with unsuitable staff, including one proprietor who had been disqualified from teaching for assaulting a pupil but was nevertheless found to be running a tutoring centre for children.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham said: ‘Ofsted’s evidence to this inquiry, including a truly shocking document recommending the physical punishment and humiliation of children on religious grounds, lays bare the problems caused by hardline faith groups holding unchecked power over education.

‘Irrespective of their background, all children have a right to a broad and balanced education in a safe, suitable environment where they are free from the threat of harm or violence. Unfortunately, for the pupils at risk in illegal religious schools, as well as those attending some independent settings run by religious hardliners, these rights are clearly being ignored.

‘We commend Ofsted for the work they are doing to keep children safe. However, the Government must do more to assist them by acting as quickly as possible to close the legal loopholes that put children in illegal or failing religious settings at risk in the first place.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager at ruth@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 300.

Read our most recent article on Humanists UK’s response to Government consultation on illegal schools

Read our article on Ofsted’s evidence on faith schools to Education Select Committee

Read our article on why Government must move fast in crackdown on illegal schools

Read more about Ofsted’s frustration on Government inaction on illegal schools.

Read more about our work on illegal schools.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Search Humanists UK