What will Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem policies mean for Jewish schools?

What will Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem policies mean for Jewish schools?

Jewish educators compare and contrast what the three main English parties say and warn of 'serious concerns' in some areas

The umbrella body for Jewish schools has issued a precis summarising the education policies of Britain’s three main political parties amid warning that some could “adversely affect” Jewish education in the UK.

Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS), a division of the Jewish Leadership Council, published the briefing document this week, highlighting the commitments of the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats and what their promises may mean for faith schools in the UK.

A PaJeS spokeswoman said: “Whilst education may not be one of the key electoral issues in this election, it is troubling that hidden within some manifestos are proposals that could adversely affect a significant proportion of our schools.”

Ofsted would be retained and strengthened by the Tories, but replaced by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Tories likewise say they would keep the 50 percent cap, whereby half of all school places at faith schools are “open places” allocated without reference to faith.

Labour has promised an arts pupil premium, free school meals at primary school, maximum class sizes of 30, and the transfer of academies into local authorities, but the party’s plans to “close the tax loopholes enjoyed by elite private schools” could impact fee-paying Jewish children.

Of most concern to PaJeS however was Labour’s statement that all schools will be subject to “a common rulebook” set out in legislation.

“This has been left quite vague,” the organisation said. “We have serious concerns as to what changes are intended within this common rulebook and how this would impact schools in general and faith schools in particular.”

PaJeS also took issue with the Lib Dems’ promise to mandate gender-neutral uniforms, saying it could “seriously challenge faith schools, even those that are same-sex,” while the party’s commitment to a “curriculum for life… may impact on the Relationship and Sex Education” legislation due to come into effect in 2020.

This week the Board of Deputies called on parliamentary candidates to “affirm the importance of schools of a religious character within the education system” ahead of the general election next week.

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