One of the UK’s leading Orthodox Jewish schools has hit out at Ofsted after the national inspectorate downgraded it from ‘Good’ to ‘Inadequate’ in a damning report published on Tuesday.
Governors at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Stamford Hill railed against a “secularist plot” after inspectors blasted them for not teaching “key information” such as the basics of reproduction in science lessons.
The school has been one of the Orthodox community’s stand-out performers in recent years and has been championed as a model of teaching excellence by those arguing against teaching requirements in religious schools.
But after its most recent March inspection, Ofsted slammed the state-funded secondary school for “not meeting the requirements of the national curriculum,” adding that “safeguarding is not effective” and that “teaching is not good enough”.
The inspectors’ main issue, however, was that the school’s “leaders do not prepare pupils well for life in British society,” adding that the redaction of books like ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Elizabethan England’ was “detrimental to pupils’ learning…pupils do not have equal opportunities for learning compared to pupils elsewhere”.
The report’s authors added that school leaders, including Principal Rabbi Avroham Pinter, “have not met their statutory duty to provide impartial careers advice and guidance so that pupils can make informed decisions about their future aspirations”.
Inspectors went further, noting that the school’s redaction of Helpline numbers from books “prevents pupils protecting themselves, because they are unable to seek independent, confidential advice if required”.
In an angry response, the chair of Governors said the report “says more about Ofsted than it does about us”.
Theo Bibelman said Yesodey Hatorah had recently been judged “outstanding” by the Hackney Learning Trust and that Ofsted had “downplayed our successes and academic achievements whilst showing a clear disrespect for the Orthodox community”.
He said: “We were appalled at the way the Ofsted inspectors treated our staff and students and we have made that clear. It seems that unless we agree with the secularist agenda of Ofsted London we cannot comply with their inspection criteria.”
Bibelman added that “the nature of this inspection and the resulting report has led to us feeling part of a secularist plot,” saying: “This inspection was never about us; it is about Ofsted using their unfettered powers to try to force faith schools to comply with their agenda or fail.”