Faith school banning parts of geography lessons, Ofsted finds

A faith school is censoring science and geography lessons on religious grounds, Ofsted has found.

In a report published this month, Ofsted said Beis Ruchel D’Satmar, an independent Orthodox Jewish school for girls in London, does not allow pupils to study “certain concepts, read content, or complete tasks” that are “not in line with the school’s religious beliefs”.

This includes science and geography, where Ofsted found “key content” is “removed and omitted”.

Despite it being a legal duty, Ofsted said the school does not “actively promote and encourage respect for other people” in relation to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010.

Ofsted said the school also fails to teach “statutory content” in relationships and sex education (RSE), including concepts such as “sexual consent, sexual exploitation, grooming and abuse”. This approach means pupils are left “unprepared for life in modern Britain”, Ofsted said.

In 2021, a report from Jewish counter-extremism group Nahamu highlighted how a lack of RSE contributes to forced marriage in strictly-Orthodox Jewish communities.

During a previous inspection, school leaders told Ofsted that “no aspect” of sex education is taught in the school, not even “reproduction in the context of an academic subject like science”.

The school has been rated “inadequate” since 2016.

During conversations between inspectors and pupils, Ofsted was prevented by school leaders from asking questions relating to “the protected characteristics, other faiths and beliefs or sex education”. In some cases, the headteacher remained “close to the classroom door”.

Despite being banned from admitting new pupils in 2019, and currently being in breach of its registration agreement due to exceeding the maximum number of pupils, Ofsted said the school “continues to admit pupils below and above the registered age range”.

NSS: ‘Religious ideology put ahead of children’s best interests’

Jack Rivington, National Secular Society campaigns officer, said: “This school’s prioritisation of religious ideology ahead of the best interests of its pupils deprives children of a full education, and leaves them unprepared to navigate life in modern Britain.

“The interference by school leaders during Ofsted’s inspection is concerning, and together with the school’s repeated refusals to comply with its legal duties, shows contempt for educational regulation and oversight.

“The school should reflect on how its failure to properly teach vital concepts around sexual consent and exploitation – which it justifies on religious grounds – leaves its pupils at increased risk of harm.”

Yehudis Fletcher from Nahamu will be speaking about how inadequate education leaves children vulnerable to abuse in Orthodox Jewish communities at an NSS panel discussion on March 17th in Manchester. Find out more and book your place.

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