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Jewish and Muslim schools slated

Two religious independent schools, one Muslim and one Jewish Orthodox, have been given extremely bad inspection reports within two weeks of each other.

The reports on Talmud Torah School in London (Jewish) and Al Jamiah Al Islamiyyah Darul Uloom, a Muslim school in Bolton, follow the Office for Standards in Education's equally condemnatory report in June on the Islamic Institute in Nottingham, where the boarders were found to be living in squalid and potentially dangerous conditions.

All three schools are now at risk of being struck off the Government's schools register.

The similarity of the inspectors' criticisms of these schools is striking. All were found to be emphasising religious teaching at the expense of secular subjects; all the pupils' were underachieving in national curriculum areas; creative and aesthetic development was neglected, non-religious books and teaching materials were scarce; the children's accommodation was inadequate and health and safety arrangements insecure.

These are among the very few independent schools given full inspections by OFSTED. It concentrates only on those whose registration inspections (a brief visit) has indicated cause for concern.

The reports on the two Muslim schools will do little to advance the case for Muslim schools joining Catholic, Anglican and Jewish establishments in the public sector.

At the Talmud Torah school, a Jewish Orthodox school for boys aged 3-11, standards were good in Hebrew studies but poor in all secular areas. In English, "few pupils are achieving satisfactory standards in reading, writing, understanding or speaking". Maths teaching was more adequate but "very narrow". A few 11-year-olds could not read English or even identify letters of the Western alphabet. The nursery-aged children were "listless and inactive" and though "obedient and polite", "rarely showed interest or curiosity". Across all ages, there was no formally identified scientific, physical, aesthetic or historical teaching. Classrooms were "drab, have little or no educational display and are untidy and dirty".

Al Jamiah, a school for boys aged 11-20, was only provisionally registered before the inspection. Mornings and evenings are taken up with study of the Koran and the Arabic language; OFSTED concentrated on the secular afternoon lessons and found 57 per cent of them inadequate.

Standards in English, maths and science were below national expectations. There was no systematic assessment of pupils' work. In the library, the only non-Islamic books were one set of encyclopaedias and one set of English classics.

The pupils' bedrooms were "impersonal, bare and shabby"; some rooms had holes in the floor and bare plaster, and there was access to a lift shaft in one.

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