New funds are being made available to help Jewish schools address concerns of Ofsted after a spate of schools were downgraded by inspectors.
More than half of schools inspected over the past year were found to be inadequate or requiring improvement – the two lowest classifications – while just one received the top grading of outstanding.
Some fear faith schools have been targeted in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal while inspectors also faced accusations from the Orthodox school sector it was over-zealous in its approach to the testing new guidelines on the teaching of “British values”.
Writing in today’s Jewish News, Rabbi David Meyer, executive director of the Partnership for Jewish Schools, said statistics cast doubt on Ofsted’s claims that Jewish schools were not being targeted but insisted “it was a little too convenient to only blame them for the recent downgrading of our community’s schools”.
And he revealed plans for a new five-figure cash injection from Pajes to help head teachers remedy concerns raised by recent reports. “Many of our schools are achieving exceptional results, and some of the inspectorate’s funds seem overly harsh.
“However, in some schools Ofsted have highlighted significant weaknesses in the quality of provision and the validity of these assessments must be recognised. Our objective must be to ensure all our schools are rated Outstanding or Good. For the few schools that are struggling these reports must be seen as a call to action.”
On top of its traditional work in curriculum development and teacher training, Pajes will now “offer support to headteachers and he leadership team, ensuring they understand the Ofsted framework, offering insets to curriculum leaders on how to meet the teaching requirements of British Values, and generally helping to ensure the best possible provision for the students”.
Assistance will be focused on schools in the lowest two categories and Rabbi Meyer urged parents to treat reports as a “way of informing schools how best to improve” rather than “as a stick with which to beat” schools. He claimed that a school “classed as outstanding in previous framework may now be assessed as good. There was an intent to raise the bar”.
The National Association of Jewish Orthodox schools complained last year that pupils had been left “traumatised” after being questioned on issues including about homosexual relationships, amid claims inspectors showed a lack of respect for the community’s traditions.
“How this was As a result of Ofsted’s approach we have witnessed the downgrading of faith schools across the country as they fail to deliver the required breadth in understanding and tolerance towards sexual preferences and religious beliefs. There appears to be no mention of ant mainstream schools having failed in these areas. This would seem to support the concern that there is a disparity in Ofsted’s approach to mainstream and faith schools.” Whether Ofsted is actually targeting Jewish schools is difficult to say. Ofsted assure us they are not, but the statistics seem to tell a different story.”
Rabbi Meyer added: “Tolerance and respect are not just British values, they are at the core of Jewish values, which our schools have been teaching for years. Rather than undermining our schools perhaps it’s time Ofsted started to appreciate them and learn from our successes.”
Following concern from the NAJOS, Ofsted insisting it was not questioning Jewish values and ethos and was not disproportionately targeting Jewish schools for unannounced inspection.