Tory chair heralds work of Stamford Hill special needs school during visit
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Tory chair heralds work of Stamford Hill special needs school during visit

Brandon Lewis sees how Charedi pupils of both full and limited abilities are taught together at Side-by-Side

Brandon Lewis in a Side-by-Side school classroom
Brandon Lewis in a Side-by-Side school classroom

The Conservative Party chairman has hailed a Jewish special needs school in Stamford Hill as an example other communities can learn from.

Brandon Lewis, who is also a minister without portfolio, visited the innovative school on Friday, to see how Charedi pupils of both full and limited abilities are taught alongside one another.

“Anything that focuses on bringing the community together is a good thing, because people support each other and it creates a more enjoyable society, a more positive society,” he said.

“The Jewish community, when you look at what’s being done at Side-by-Side, it’s a good example of how the community plays a large part in making that viable and sustainable.”

With the government consumed by Brexit infighting, Lewis was asked whether Israel would be near the front of the queue when it came to post-Brexit trade deals, but said this would depend on how fast Israelis could negotiate with the UK.

Brandon Lewis at Side-by-Side school in Stamford Hill

“Whoever is first in the queue will depend on how far they get in negotiations themselves, in terms of the actual practicality of getting them done,” he said.

“We’re going to be looking to do those kinds of deals with countries like Israel where we’ve got a long-standing friendship and relationship. It’s a very natural partner to be looking to do a trade deal with.”

Brandon Lewis meets a pupil at Side-by-Side school

Lewis could offer no reassurance to large Orthodox families facing the prospect of a two-child benefits cap effective from February, saying: “I don’t see it changing… We’ve got to get back to living within our means.”

Speaking to Jewish News, the Tory chair refused to be drawn on the issue of Ofsted inspectors downgrading Orthodox schools for their refusal to teach about different sexualities or gender identities, saying: “It’s not my area.”

He also confirmed there were “no plans” to proscribe Lebanon-based militia Hezbollah in its entirety, given that only the group’s armed wing is currently proscribed by the government.

“I absolutely recognise the frustration,” he said. “I’ve had people raise this with me. That’s why the Home Office keeps these things under review.”

The minister also said there were no plans for legislation to counter online hate, saying the issue was “international, not national,” but said he had “a huge amount of sympathy” for media lawyer Mark Lewis, who was fined last month for abusing his far-right abusers during social media exchanges.

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