Charedi schools won’t be downgraded for not teaching LGBT curriculum

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Charedi schools won’t be downgraded for not teaching LGBT curriculum

Strictly-Orthodox leaders welcomed Ofsted's policy on teaching relationship and sex education after months of raising concerns

Stock image of a pupil in a school uniform (Credit: Robin Worrall, Unsplash)
Stock image of a pupil in a school uniform (Credit: Robin Worrall, Unsplash)

Strictly Orthodox Jewish educators have welcomed news this week that schools not teaching the new relationship and sex education curriculum may not now be downgraded as a result.

Reaction follows the publication on Thursday of a new guidance document titled ‘Inspecting teaching of the protected characteristics in schools’ from the national schools’ inspectorate Ofsted.

The document acknowledges that schools, such as those in the Charedi community, “have raised questions about what they should teach in relation to the ‘protected characteristics’ in the Equality Act 2010, particularly the sexual orientation and gender reassignment characteristics”.

It says schools “are at liberty to teach the tenets of any faith on the protected characteristics”, but “must also explain the legal rights LGBT+ people have under UK law, and that this and LGBT people must be respected”.

Facing pressure from faith leaders on the issue, the Department for Education has said that the coronavirus pandemic means that it is giving schools “flexibility over how they discharge their duty within the first year of compulsory teaching”.

A spokeswoman for Chinuch UK, one of the main representative bodies for Charedi schools in the UK, said it “welcomes Ofsted’s new policy guidance on how schools are required to promote tolerance and respect with particular regard to the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010”.

She said: “The new policy brings Ofsted in line with the DfE guidance published in 2019 and brings an end to schools facing censure for not teaching young children about this very sensitive subject. Schools will now have much greater freedom to listen to their parent bodies and decide what is appropriate for their pupils.

“While this guidance does not resolve all issues for Charedi schools, it is a very constructive step and will have a positive impact.”

It applies to all types of academy, maintained, non-maintained special and non-association independent schools, and though inspectors will comment on schools’ readiness to teach RSE from January, school compliance “will not impact inspection judgments until the start of the summer term 2021”.

Even then, schools not teaching about LGBT+ relationships from next summer will not be marked down on leadership and management if the school “can satisfy inspectors that it has still fulfilled the requirements of the DfE’s statutory guidance”.

At the same time, further guidance was published about how inspectors speak to pupils during inspection, described as “another matter that has been very contentious for Charedi schools” by the spokeswoman.

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