New Government figures show that there are still seven times more Orthodox Jewish girls studying in registered state-funded or independent schools in Hackney than there are boys.
The numbers highlight how little Ministers have done to get on top of unregistered schools, as the buck gets passed between the Department for Education (DfE), the national inspectorate Ofsted, and local councils such as Hackney.
The London borough, which has a large Orthodox population, has dozens of yeshivot (Jewish religious educational institutions) operating there.
Charedi boys up are expected to leave school and study religious texts in a yeshiva for several years from the age of 13. In recent years commentators examining the Government figures have dubbed them “the missing boys”.
The Department’s latest stats show that there were 1,735 girls aged 11-15 studying in registered Jewish schools in Hackney, but only 256 boys of the same age.
The huge disparity reflects similar figures for the past eight years, and has long been recognised as a problem that Ministers seem unwilling to tackle.
In a report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) published in January this year, analysts said there were more than 20,000 Orthodox children in the UK attending state-funded and independent ultra-Orthodox schools.
However, they said a “significant number of Charedi teenagers” study in yeshivot and are therefore not included in DfE figures.
In April this year, Ofsted said its illegal schools task force had investigated 521 settings since January 2016, and estimated that 6,000 children were being educated in the 259 unregistered schools it had inspected to-date.
Last year Hackney Council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Commission reported that there were “around 29 unregistered yeshivas offering religious teaching to approximately 1,000-1,500 boys within the Charedi Orthodox Jewish community”.
The Council called on the Government to act following a series of incidents including a near-tragedy in 2016, when a group of 36 Charedi boys from an unregistered school almost drowned when they got stuck by rising tides on the Dover coast.
A major rescue mission involving lifeboats and helicopters eventually saved the boys, who had by that time split up. It was later reported that they had not understood the red warning signs because they were in English.
“Now is the time to shine a light on the serious concerns shared by the Commission, the Council and many others who work with children in Hackney and beyond,” said Cllr Chris Kennedy, Chair of Hackney’s Children and Young People Commission, speaking last year.
He described a “fundamental clash between parents’ wishes to educate their children at these settings and the rights of children to a broad education, where their safety is paramount”.
Kennedy added: “The Government holds the key to enable local and national agencies to bring unregistered settings into compliance, and I echo the Council’s repeated calls for them to do something about it.”
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