A state-funded Orthodox Jewish school in Barnet has two months to change the way it allocates places, after it was told that asking for parents’ marriage certificates and synagogue membership was illegal.
The Board of Governors at Pardes House Primary School was issued with the two-month notice by Schools Adjudicator Peter Goringe, who said its over subscription criteria breached the Admissions Code.
The judgement, published late last week, follows a complaint by an unknown objector, who argued that it was unfair to ask a child’s family to provide evidence of where the parents were married and where they attended shul.
While the ruling does not set a legal precedent, it is likely to influence admissions criteria in Charedi schools, reducing the influence of rabbis in decisions.
In its submissions, the boys’ school had said it asked for the parents’ marriage certificate (ketubah) and evidence of synagogue membership to demonstrate the child’s “Orthodox practice” and “religious activities” but the adjudicator said the information being requested had “no direct bearing” on the school’s stated criteria.
“Irrespective of how information about the synagogue an applicant attends might inform class groupings, such a matter can have no place in a Supplementary Information Form,” said Goringe, referring to the application process.
“Admission arrangements do not comply with the Code as they prioritise children on the basis of their own or their parents’ activities, which have not been laid out as ‘religious activities’ by the school’s religious authority.”
Rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, the school was recently refurbished and expanded, which has now led to an oversubscription of places.
The school comes under the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC), which denies giving Orthodox schools guidance on criteria, but Pardes House told the Adjudicator its criteria had been compiled “in consultation” with the UOHC.