One of Britain’s most senior Orthodox representatives has said schools inspectorate Ofsted is “leading a state offensive on religious freedom”.
Chaya Spitz, chief executive of Charedi charity Interlink Foundation, said Prime Minister Theresa May’s Christmas vow to protect religious freedom was “hollow” amidst a state “attack” on schools.
Writing in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) this week, Spitz hit out against Ofsted as “the enforcer of secular liberal values,” in the wake of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal, which led to a strategy to tackle extremism by defining British values sometimes at odds with the Torah.
“It is not our personal practice that is threatened, nor, at least for now, on what we do in our synagogues,” she wrote. “The attack is on our schools, on the way we educate our children.”
Spitz said Ofsted inspections of Orthodox schools in Hackney regularly garnered “outstanding” grades from 2010 to 2013, but “suddenly, in 2014, they were hit by a radical redefinition of what the personal and social development of children should look like, and what ‘British values’ means”.
Inspectors insist that all schools teach children about the protected characteristics covered by equalities legislation, which includes gender and sexual minorities, but Orthodox communities have fiercely resisted this, citing overwhelming parental choice that this not be taught.
In emotive language, Spitz – who was awarded an OBE last year – writes: “We stand by helpless as our schools are assaulted in the public discourse and attacked on the ground… Mrs May’s words are true and just. But coming at this time, they are hollow.”
Noting a corresponding fall in grades, she added that the current practice meant that “peace-loving law-abiding communities have been pushed to choose between the law of their religion and the law of their beloved country”.