A rainbow coloured placard in the colors of the LGBT flag [Illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – An all-girls haredi school in London risks closure after failing a third inspection in the space of just over a year by the Office of Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (commonly referred to as Ofsted).
These failures stem in large part from the school’s refusal to teach about a range of LGBT-related issues including homosexuality and gender reassignment.
Vishnitz Girls School, located in the east London borough of Hackney, teaches girls aged three to eight. Most pupils speak Yiddish as their primary language; they are taught in a combination of Yiddish and English, with a 50/50 split between Jewish and secular studies.
According to an Ofsted report on the school, teaching there contravenes the law as set out in the Equality Act 2010, which makes it mandatory for British schools to educate on a range of “protracted characteristics,” including age, disability, race, sex and sexual orientation.
While the report acknowledges that the school’s “[l]eaders and proprietors recognize the requirement to teach about the protected characteristics,” it notes that the leaders simultaneously “acknowledge that they do not teach pupils about all the protected characteristics, particularly those relating to gender reassignment and sexual orientation.”
In summary, “This means that pupils have a limited understanding of the different lifestyles and partnerships that individuals may choose in present-day society.”
In other areas, however, the school received praise, with Ofsted noting that pupils “are well motivated, have positive attitudes to learning and are confident in thinking for themselves.”
Vishnitz Girls School is one of seven faith schools that failed an Ofsted inspection in the space of a few weeks. Although faith schools in the UK are not required to follow the national curriculum laid out for state schools, it is mandatory for them to follow standards for sex education issued by both the Department for Education and Ofsted.
Writing on the blog of campaign group Christians in Education, educator Gill Robbins wrote, “Ofsted has revealed its true agenda.
It doesn’t matter how good your school is in all other respects – simply refusing to teach very young children about gender reassignment will lead to your closure.”
Neil Levitan, director of programs at Jewish LGBT+ charity KeshetUK, told The Jerusalem Post, “We know that young people of faith are more likely to have tried to take their own life than those that aren’t, and that pupils in faith schools are more likely than those in nonfaith schools to say that teachers and school staff never challenge homophobic, biophobic and transphobic language when they hear it.
“[E]very Jewish institution, particularly those working with young people such as schools, needs to find a way to ensure young LGBT+ people feel safe and loved, to keep them safe from harm and ultimately to create a world where no one has to choose between their Jewish and LGBT+ identities.”
An Ofsted representative said the standards “actively promote fundamental British values such as democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”
The representative continued that “Children living in England deserve the best. The law expects schools to demonstrate that they are encouraging pupils to take a respectful and tolerant stance toward those who hold values different from their own. Ofsted acts robustly and impartially to ensure children in England receive a good education.”
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