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Inspectors criticise religious schools

TWO RELIGIOUS independent schools, one Jewish Orthodox and one Muslim, have received damning inspection reports which criticise their inadequate secular education and hazardous sites.

The Office for Standards in Education reports on Mechinoh Boys' School, a Jewish school in Salford, and Madinatul Uloom al Islamiya, a Muslim boys' school in Kidderminster, found the schools concentrated on religious education at the expense of secular subjects, had inadequate and potentially dangerous accommodation and limited non-religious books and teaching materials.

Both schools' primary aim is to educate boys in the theology of their religion. Both reports judged they were successful in this but said other areas of the curriculum were neglected.

The inspections follow critical reports on two Muslim and one Jewish school last year which raised almost identical concerns.

Only independent schools whose registration inspections (a brief visit) give cause for concern are given full inspections by OFSTED.

Madinatul Uloom al Islamiya, an independent Islamic boys' boarding school, has been visited several times by concerned inspectors. By their last visit in September 1997, standards had deteriorated to such an extent that the DFEE sent a strong official letter to the school. Worcestershire social services also visited the school concerned about pupil welfare.

The full OFSTED report found that many pupils were underachieving although teaching, apart from in mathematics, was generally sound.

Inspectors highlighted several health and safety problems including derelict buildings and rubbish, including broken glass, littering areas used by boys to play football. They praised work to refurbish the school's classrooms and mosque but said the remaining hazards must be dealt with.

At Mechinoh Boys' School, a Jewish day school for boys, the secular curriculum was found to be narrow and no pupils were entered for public examinations. The quality of most secular lessons, mainly taught by two unqualified graduates, was criticised.

The report said buildings and grounds were in poor condition and needed refurbishment. They condemned the classrooms as "unsafe and unhealthy, and so unfit for the education of children".

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