Faith school complains to Theresa May about Ofsted's 'secularist agenda'

School principal says his pupils are being 'intimidated by the deliberate disregard for cultural sensitivities' shown by inspectorate

Charlotte Santry

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The principal of a Jewish faith school has written to Theresa May to complain about Ofsted's "secularist agenda", after facing two inspections within two weeks.

Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls' School, in north London, recently came under scrutiny over its policy of censoring textbooks that showed pictures of women's knees.

Under the policy, references to homosexuality were blacked out – and a photo of Hollywood dance legends Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was completely covered.

Now, in a letter addressed to the prime minister, the school's principal, Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, has complained about an Ofsted inspection carried out on 6 March, at which he says inspectors were "aggressively grilling my staff about every aspect of the education we are giving our students" – despite pupils' above-average academic results.

Inspectors "spent a disproportionate amount of time in the library analysing our approach to texts", he added.

A few days later, Humanists UK highlighted the school's approach to redacting textbooks, and the following week Ofsted returned again to carry out a "Section 5" inspection.

Faith schools 'powerless'

According to Ofsted guidance published last December, a short inspection is converted to a Section 5 inspection "if there are serious concerns about safeguarding, behaviour or the quality of education".

Rabbi Pinter suggests in his letter, dated 14 March, that this second inspection was triggered by the concerns expressed by Humanists UK.

His letter states: "It is hugely disappointing that a fringe group can influence so-called independent bodies in this way. 

"Our community has been targeted consistently and our staff and pupils are being intimidated by the deliberate disregard for cultural sensitivities."

It adds: "It is becoming progressively clear that faith groups are powerless to stop the secularist agenda pedalled by Ofsted. It seems that no matter what positive noises we hear from government, Ofsted is determined to make our position as faith schools untenable."

Rabbi Pinter has asked to meet with Ms May as a matter of urgency.

But Ofsted denies that the decision to return to the school was related to the Humanists' intervention. 

A spokesperson said: "Ofsted inspects all schools against the same framework and standards. We are clear that all schools have a duty to actively promote fundamental British values, provide a rich and broad curriculum and ensure that pupils are kept safe. That is what parents expect and the law demands.

"Faith schools are entirely at liberty to teach the tenets of their faith on social issues. However, they must also comply with the law and ensure that pupils are properly prepared for life in modern Britain. The vast majority of faith schools see no tension in doing this.

"Ofsted returned to visit this school as the inspection the week before was deemed incomplete, due to new evidence coming to light, which included parental complaints. This decision was unrelated to any coverage from the humanists. We will publish our findings in due course.”

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Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry is deputy news editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @CharlotteSantry

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