Ofsted 'considers' approach to gender segregation after quashing 'inadequate' inspection of Jewish school

Ofsted is considering whether to change its approach to gender segregation after quashing the ‘inadequate’ rating of a Jewish school it accused of breaking equalities laws.

King David High School in Manchester received the lowest possible rating in an inspection report published in June after inspectors accused it of “unlawful segregation on the grounds of faith and belief and sex”.

The school was rated ‘outstanding’ in 2015.

But following a legal challenge, Ofsted has agreed to scrap the judgement. The inspectorate said the step was “very unusual” and could not confirm if it had ever done this before.

King David operates three education streams: the main co-education stream with boys and girls in mixed classes, and two single-sex Yavneh streams which operate in accordance with Orthodox Judaism.

Ofsted said this amounted to “discrimination” under equality law. However, Michael Brotherton, partner at law firm Stone King that represented the school, told Schools Week this was a “fundamental error”.

As both genders were in both the single-sex and co-educational streams, Ofsted could not show any different treatment between the two streams was on the grounds of gender. As Orthodox Jewish pupils were in both streams, Ofsted also could not show discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

Lawyers applied for a judicial review on the grounds Ofsted had misunderstood both the school and the equality act, but Ofsted agreed to quash it without going to court.

A spokesperson for Ofsted admitted inspectors “made an understandable, but incorrect, comparison” between the different streams which was “not correct under the equality act”.

“Ofsted will consider whether the decision has any implications for the approach our inspectors taken in the future.”

Joshua Rowe, chair of governors at King David, said the school was “very pleased that justice prevailed”.

The school’s former ‘outstanding’ rated has been reinstated pending another inspection. Ofsted has agreed to pay “reasonable costs” to the school, but an amount has not yet been agreed.

In October 2017, the Court of Appeal ruled Ofsted was right to criticise gender segregation at the Islamic Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham, as it caused less positive treatment for both boys and girls because of their gender.

Since then, many schools which segregate according to gender have applied to split into separate single-sex schools, including Yesoiday Hatorah School in Manchester, Gateshead Jewish Nursery and Al-Khair Boys Secondary School in Croydon.