Faith school omitting content on “religious grounds”, Ofsted finds

Posted: Thu, 6th Jun 2024

Jewish school censors pictures of people which do not meet religious 'modesty' codes and does not let pupils speak to inspectors alone.

Keith M Ramsey via Shutterstock

An independent faith school is omitting content from certain subjects on "religious grounds", according to a new Ofsted report.

Beis Ruchel Girls School, an orthodox Jewish school in Manchester, has been judged inadequate after censoring images of people wearing clothing that "do not fit the orthodox Jewish principle of modesty". This contributes to pupils' "restricted view of the world outside their own community", Ofsted said.

Pupils at the school do not learn about different religions and values and have "a cursory understanding of fundamental British values, such as individual liberty". This lack of opportunity to build understanding of "different people and cultures" is leaving pupils "wholly underprepared for life in modern Britain", Ofsted said.

Ofsted criticised the school for not promoting mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, as required by the independent school standards.

Ofsted also said that unmet standards on the teaching of relationships education have a "serious impact on pupils personal development, safety and welfare".

Pupils gain a "narrow understanding of the world" and are prevented from learning important information they "need to stay safe". This puts them "at risk of potential harm" and leaves them "vulnerable to some of the risks that they may face as they grow older".

During the inspection, Ofsted were prevented from speaking to pupils without an adult present. Inspectors were also told not to ask questions about "some aspects of personal development". As a result, inspectors were not able to establish whether pupils were expressing their views freely.

Faith schools often demand inspectors do not discuss teaching they feel is incompatible with their religious beliefs with pupils, particularly relating to LGBT issues. Responding to a recent consultation, the National Secular Society told Ofsted it should "ensure it plays no role in helping schools evade teaching about same-sex relationships".

The school has previously received a warning notice from the Department for Education. In 2019, an Ofsted inspection noted the school was "unwilling to compromise with regard to the teaching of aspects of the Equality Act", meaning pupils were not taught about "different kinds of families and gender issues".

The school has not been judged to be of an acceptable standard since 2016.

NSS: Repeated refusals to meet standards must be more robustly challenged.

National Secular Society spokesperson Jack Rivington said: "Education should seek to broaden and expand children and young people's opportunities, not shut off any prospect of life beyond the confines of the religious community they were born into.

"Faith schools which ignore the recommendations of Ofsted and refuse to meet legally required standards for schools should be more robustly challenged. Schools cannot be allowed to continually put children at risk of harm by prioritising religious ideology ahead of pupils' best interests."

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Tags: Faith schools