Jewish school monitors ‘anti-religious agenda’

A Jewish education group has said that it is monitoring signs of an “anti-religious agenda” after a secondary school received an unannounced inspection following complaints that pupils were being “indoctrinated”.

Ofsted visited JFS, a 2,000 pupil Jewish school in Kenton, north London, in July after it received a letter that claimed children were taught “extreme” views.

In a report published last week it said there was no evidence of extremist teaching, but it downgraded the school from “outstanding” to “requires improvement”.

The news comes as Ofsted announced it is to launch a wave of no-notice inspections, following an alleged hardline Muslim takeover of some schools in Birmingham.

A spokesman for the Partnership for Jewish Schools (PaJeS) said: “It is fair to say there are people who do have a concern there may be an agenda on faith schools in general in light of recent events.

“We have no evidence that there is such an agenda. If there were, we would be very, very concerned about it and it is safe to say we are monitoring the situation closely.”

Six Ofsted inspectors visited JFS on July 8. Their report said: “Teachers look for opportunities to develop students’ understanding of spiritual, moral, social and cultural values.

“[There are] high quality displays of work, and a wide range of extra-curricular activities, events and visits help students understand their own faith and respect the views of others. For example, older students are provided with opportunities to discuss values that may be different from their own, such as same-sex relationships.

“Inspectors found no evidence to support the concerns raised in a letter to Ofsted claiming students were being indoctrinated by the extreme orthodox views of some teachers.”

But the inspectors did say that they had concerns that the school’s behaviour policy was implemented inconsistently, a worry shared by parents.

The report added: “Leadership and management require improvement because leaders and governors are not monitoring behaviour systems closely to check that any inequalities are addressed.

“They have not ensured that sanctions are applied in an equitable manner in line with the school’s behaviour policy. Leaders are not monitoring minority groups to ensure they are not discriminated against.”

The head of public affairs at the British Humanist Association, Pavan Dhaliwal, said: “There is no evidence that Ofsted has adopted an anti-religious agenda. It is hugely important that all schools prepare pupils for life in a diverse, tolerant society. It is this that Ofsted correctly found the Birmingham schools were failing to do, and it is this that recent changes to the inspection framework are intended to address. JFS, however, was inspected prior to these changes, and was downgraded in its inspection for other reasons.”

Schools Week asked Ofsted for the number of unannounced inspections that have taken place over the past year, but it said it was unable to provide any.

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