Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has said he is concerned Ofsted cannot inspect religious education in faith schools, which he suggests may exacerbate religious and ethnic segregation in cities.
In an attack on schools he called “islands,” Hunt said: “We have particular concerns that Ofsted is not allowed to inspect religious teaching in faith schools”. He called the situation “slightly curious.”
Community leaders hit back, with the Board of Deputies’ senior vice-president Laura Marks saying: “Ofsted is not equipped to deal with the complex issues involved.”
Hunt said it was “a worrying trend in terms of cultural and ethnic identification through schooling” before adding that the answer was for “Ofsted to inspect schools on the basis of a broad and balanced curriculum”.
It comes in a week when Orthodox Jewish schools were left “appalled” at the tactics of British Humanists after a parliamentary group heard from a former Charedi Jew about how religious education “can damage children’s lives”.
The whistleblower from Stamford Hill, who was not named, said he grew up speaking almost no English, getting just 30 minutes of a “normal” curriculum each day, with the rest of the time being spent studying religious texts.
The All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) meeting last week also heard from the source of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot, a covert attempt by hard-line Islamists to take control of Birmingham schools.
Jonathan Rabson of the National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools (NAJOS) said: “We are appalled by the attempts of British Humanists to influence government policy and undermine parents’ right to choose.”
The whistleblower said his school was not registered with the Department for Education (DfE), so pupils were denied the basic quality of education, health and safety and protection against corporal punishment which were afforded other schools.
He explained that this was a problem among some Stamford Hill schools but that Ofsted, Hackney Council and the DfE had “passed the buck between them as to whose responsibility it is to fix”. He also said that when Charedi schools started failing their Ofsted inspections around 2007, Ofsted hired Charedi inspectors and the schools’ results suddenly improved.
Lord Warner of Brockley, chair of the APPHG, said: “Indoctrination, rather than education, is taking place in schools, and we need to distinguish between the two.”
But Rabson said: “We are not clear where he was educated but we can say that all Jewish schools today are legal and registered.”
NAJOS trustee Yitzchok Katz added: “The Humanists seem to be hell-bent on eliminating religion and forcing all schooling to be based on atheism.”