There has been an unusually muted response from the strictly Orthodox sector to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ groundbreaking guidance code on LGBT issues for Jewish schools.
In what it terms the chief rabbi’s “guidance on protected characteristics”, Chinuch UK, the umbrella body for strictly Orthodox schools in London, Manchester, and Gateshead, advises its members that “this guidance is relevant only to schools that fall under the authority of the chief rabbi”.
Claiming that “the majority of Jewish children in England” attend its schools — which might come as a surprise to many parents — Chinuch UK says that its own guidelines will be communicated directly to its own membership by its board of rabbis.
The response of the Chinuch UK rabbis is unusual, because in previous years, announcements from the chief rabbinate have frequently been greeted with derision. There is speculation that this more low-key approach has derived from a long summer of battles with Ofsted, the education regulatory authority, which has expressed serious concern about some of the teachings in strictly Orthodox schools.
Behind the scenes meetings have been taking place between Ofsted and strictly Orthodox school leaders, who have expressed alarm at the potential imposition of so-called “British values” on its schools curriculum. Chief Rabbi Mirvis himself spoke directly of those fears to the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, in a meeting in July.