Ofsted has admonished an over-subscribed Orthodox Jewish boys’ school in Stamford Hill because pupils “get confused between Yiddish and English” and teachers “do not correct them”.
The national inspectorate’s latest damning indictment was delivered against TTD Gur School’s “poor” teaching in secular studies, revealing that no pupil met the early learning goals in reading or writing in 2019.
“They learn to read Yiddish and only hear initial sounds in English,” said inspectors, flagging concerns around phonics in a report published this week.
“Adults do not teach pupils how to blend and segment initial sounds accurately [so] pupils get confused between the Yiddish and English languages. Adults do not correct pupils’ misunderstandings. Pupils make many errors in saying sounds that adults do not correct.”
The inspectors added that “the leadership of secular subjects is weak,” saying: “Subject plans are too narrow. They focus mainly on the experiences of Jewish people.”
The school is registered for up to 140 pupils between the ages of three and seven, but it has 242, breaching its registration agreement. Some are as old as 11, even though “staff do not have the subject knowledge to teach pupils secular subjects above the age of seven”.
The number of pupils has almost doubled in four years, with 128 pupils registered in December 2015. The school hired a new headteacher in 2018 with a view to strengthening secular studies. The previous headteacher is now head of Kodesh.
In keeping with a recent trend seen in other Orthodox Jewish schools, inspectors were told that they were not allowed to converse with any of the boys during the inspection in order to check their understanding of basic legal requirements.
“We were not able to meet with pupils across the school to discuss their work or to find out what they thought about behaviour, bullying and the wider opportunities for learning at the school,” wrote lead inspector Noeman Anwar.
Inspectors, who used an interpreter to understand lessons taught in Yiddish, nevertheless noted that the boys “do not learn about the roles of women in wider society,” and do not learn about different sexualities or gender identities.
Despite the dour overall assessment there was some praise, inspectors noting that subject plans had improved since the last assessment, plus “noticeable improvements” to the provision for pupils with special educational needs.
TTD Gur was rated ‘outstanding’ in 2013 but in 2015 it was downgraded to ‘inadequate’. Three further inspections – in 2016, 2017 and 2018 – all rated the school ‘inadequate’.
Ofsted’s more recent inspection, in October last year, maintained the dire determination, rating the school ‘inadequate’ in every category, including quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, leadership and management, and early years provision.
Three trustees – Aron Goldman, Abraham Schreiber and Isaiah Traube – control the school through Talmud Torah D’Chasidei Gur Ltd. The school building shares its site with a yeshiva.
Anwar said Ofsted would now be “advising [Education Secretary Gavin Williamson] about the school’s suitability for continued registration as an independent school,” adding that “a significant number of the independent school standards are not met”.