April 2016: The Department for Education said that it would take direct action against unregistered schools, after a newspaper investigation revealed that thousands of children had disappeared from government records, in order to be taught in illegal ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools. The boys received only religious education, delivered in Yiddish. Many left school unable to speak English and with no qualifications or skills. Corporal punishment was common.
June 2016: A group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish pupils nearly drowned after being taken on a hiking expedition by unqualified teachers at their illegal school. They were dressed in traditional Orthodox clothes instead of proper hiking gear, and were unable to read coastal warning signs because they could not speak English. They were rescued by emergency services after the tide almost swept them out to sea.
July 2016: The DfE proposed new powers that would enable it to intervene in illegal and unregulated schools and education settings, which would be included in a Home Office counter-extremism bill. An escalation of Ofsted investigations into unregulated schools was also announced, along with a call to local authorities to help identify education settings where there might be cause for concern.
July 2016: Sir Michael Wilshaw singled out Birmingham, Luton and Bradford as areas of particular concern, warning that pupils studying outside mainstream education could be at risk of exposure to extremism. He feared that children in illegal schools could be vulnerable to radical and extremist influences.
August 2016: Ofsted highlighted an illegal Jewish school in North London, which taught pupils that women’s only role was to clean and cook.
October 2016: Bradford Council said that it would work more closely with police in an effort to spot any signs of illegal schools. This would include efforts such as asking police to watch out for warning signs, including children gathering in a particular uniform in a non-school setting.