Educational authorities have downgraded a Modern Orthodox secondary school to “inadequate.”
A report by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) says the school has “high” pupil attainment, but claims the segregation of boys and girls in some of Manchester’s King David High School departments is illegal.
The school, with nearly 800 pupils, is open to any Jewish pupil, regardless of level of observance. Nearly 30 years ago, the school, under the directorship of Joshua Rowe, opened a separate department, Yavneh Girls, for more religious girls whose parents objected to co-ed education. It was later followed by a similar department for boys, Yavneh Boys.
At the same time, Rowe also improved the school’s academic programs to make it attractive to all Jewish parents who wanted an excellent secular education for their children. Past Ofsted reports have ranged from good to outstanding, as recently as 2015.
The latest Ofsted report states: “The internal segregation of pupils according to faith and belief constitutes a direct discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010. Pupils in YB and YG experience unfavourable treatment because of this segregation.”
Ofsted cites as examples of discrimination Yavneh’s longer school day, Sunday morning classes at Yavneh Boys, and different lunch times for pupils at Yavneh Girls pupils, which are distinct from the rest of the school.
The report states: “Those taught in YB and YG cannot freely learn and socialize with pupils of the opposite sex and so miss out on the educational and social benefits.”
Rowe, who is threatening legal action against Ofsted, countered, “The Yavneh structure has been in place for almost 30 years now – always with the approval of the local education authority and the Department for Education (DfE). The Yavneh structure has been through some seven Ofsted and Her Majesty’s Inspectors inspections and no issues were ever raised.”
He said the school lawyers believe that Ofsted is “wrong on the law,” adding that the school last year also sought and received the approval of the DfE that it was compliant. He said the school has been in contact with Ofsted for three months, but it has refused to budge from its stance that the school is inadequate because of “unlawful segregation.”
He said, “This focus on segregation and discrimination appears to have informed and coloured the whole inspection and means that inspectors spent relatively little time on anything else.”
The school is considering forming three separate academies, two of which would be single-sex, working with the DfE to find a solution, or applying for a Judicial Review.
Charedi education activist Shraga Stern told The Jewish Press, “This is not a charedi or chassidishe school, just a regular mainstream Orthodox school. The whole Jewish community should wake up and realize that this is not just against so-called ultra-Orthodox schools.
“This is a liberal agenda of secularists to foist atheism upon us and is about erasing anything religious or moral from the face of the earth.”
Gateshead Rav in Talks to Head Federation of Synagogues
The Gateshead Rav, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, is in talks to succeed Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein as head dayan of the Federation of Synagogues in London.
Dayan Lichtenstein announced in March that he would be retiring within a year from the post he has held for 30 years. Both Rabbi Zimmerman and Dayan Lichtenstein are American-born.
Rabbi Zimmerman is understood to have recently met leaders of the synagogual body. The rabbi, has been in Gateshead since 2008. An e-mail from a lay member of Gateshead Jewry warned that the yeshiva town could face a “crisis” if Zimmerman left and called for improvements in his salary and pension.
Theresa May Vows to Continue Supporting UK Jewry
Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to continue supporting UK Jewry after she leaves office.
“It has been a privilege to attend so many significant communal events in recent years…from meeting communal leaders and celebrating Jewish festivals in Downing Street to safeguarding the security of British Jews and ensuring a lasting commitment to Holocaust commemoration and education,” she wrote to the Board of Deputies.
She added: “I am sure that this friendship and my support for the community will continue in the years to come.”
MP Apologizes for Anti-Semitic Posts
Newly elected Peterborough MP Lisa Forbes has apologized profusely to the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust, and the Anti-Semitism Policy Trust for anti-Semitic social media posts.
“I am sorry that I have caused hurt to your community…I know that you are hurting and that you have had to endure the most appalling abuse and treatment as the scourge of anti-Semitism has risen across the UK,” she wrote to the Board of Deputies.
The chief executives of the four organizations will be meeting with Forbes at her request.
Cambridge Criticized for Hosting Malaysian PM
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) slammed Cambridge University Union for hosting anti-Semitic Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad.
On Sunday, Mohamad drew laughter from the audience at one of the UK’s top universities when he said he had “many Jewish friends.” He added, “They’re not like other Jews – that’s why they’re my friends.”
UJS responded, “Freedom of speech is not a joke when it incites hatred.”