Orthodox Jewish community leaders have hit back against government decisions to close an independent Charedi school in Stamford Hill and against David Cameron’s statement that all children should learn English to counter extremism.
“We are deeply uncomfortable about the link between poor English language skills and extremism, which does not appear to have any evidence base,” said Joel Friedman from Interlink Foundation, which represents the Orthodox community.
“Conflating these two issues stigmatises parts of society in a way that can only increase the feelings of unease and marginalisation of the targeted groups.”
It comes after the Department for Education ordered the closure of 221-student Charedi Talmud Torah Tashbar, which has operated illegally as an unregistered school for four decades, and after Prime Minister David Cameron said learning English would tackle segregation and help minorities resist the lure of extremism.
Ofsted inspectors have repeatedly warned that the school, which teaches boys aged 3-13, was failing to meet “minimum standards,” and encouraging “cultural and ethnic insularity because it is so narrow and almost exclusively rooted in the study of the Torah”.
Orthodox representatives said the school would appeal and criticised the rationale behind the decision.
“Schools should not be used as a tool for social engineering,” said Friedman. “We do not accept that independent faith schools should be branded inadequate because children have a simple and conservative understanding of family life.”
He said the new Common Inspection Framework introduced in September had “brought many of the requirements of government-funded schools to the independent school sector” and that the Orthodox community were pouring resources into meeting these new requirements.
“Many schools and early years’ settings ranked outstanding by Ofsted in the last five years have now been assessed as inadequate,” he said. “We are also deeply concerned that the new requirements of schools relating to their curricula are being imposed unilaterally and sometimes unrealistically.”
However, the British Humanist Association said: “We are glad the DfE has now moved to shut this school down, which after all this time is an incredibly welcome move. There are clearly many more out there just like it.”
A spokesman added: “Every year, every month, every week that these places are allowed to stay open, a huge number of children remain isolated, indoctrinated, and very likely abused.”