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Education watchdog launches probe into illegal religious schools teaching 1000 boys

Nick Duffy April 1, 2016

Authorities have launched a probe into fears that as many as a thousand students are being taught in illegal schools across London.

Both the Department for Education and Ofsted are understood to be looking into the concerns reported in a Newsnight investigation, regarding the practise of unregistered schools in the strict Orthodox Jewish Charedi community.

As many as 20 illegal schools are thought to be operation across the capital, predominantly concentrated in Stamford Hill – many of which are registered as religious charities.

They instead operate to provide a narrow education to pupils, with the National Curriculum ignored in favour of religion lessons delivered in Yiddish, which are restricted almost entirely to studying religious texts.

Little to no secular education takes place, and some former pupils say they have left with few basic life skills.

It is a crime under UK law to operate an unregistered school.

One former pupil, who is now in their 20s, opened up to Newsnight about one such school.

They said: “I’m starting to study for my GCSEs. I’m maybe like an eight-year-old, nine-year-old. That’s my level of education.”

Charedi religious teachings affirm that homosexuality is an abomination.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We have announced an escalation of Ofsted investigations into unregistered schools, with additional inspectors dedicated to rooting them out, a new tougher approach to prosecuting them and a call to local authorities to help identify any settings of concern.”

Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association said: “It is simply unacceptable that institutions that exclusively operate to indoctrinate, isolate, and control children are availing themselves of all the benefits that charitable status brings.

“There is nothing charitable about these places, and the inaction of successive Governments in allowing them to stay open for decades, never seen more clearly than in their face-saving, half-measure approach to closing down Tashbar [a Charedi Primary School], is a scandal.”

More: Charedi, Education, Haredi, London, Ofsted, Religion, school

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