‘Outstanding’ Jewish school downgraded over religious and gender segregation concerns
Structure amounts to ‘discrimination’ under equality law, inspectors say
The King David High School in Manchester, an academy which was deemed to be “outstanding” in 2015, has now been judged as “inadequate” after a reinspection by the schools watchdog.
Handing out the damning rating, inspectors concluded that the way students were taught at the 800-pupil school was “unlawful segregation on the grounds of faith and belief and sex”.
It comes after figures this week revealed that 84 per cent of “outstanding” primary and secondary schools inspected this academic year were downgraded after Ofsted inspectors returned.
The chief inspector for Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, has called on the government to remove a policy which exempts schools rated “outstanding” from routine inspection, amid concerns parents lack confidence in the grades.
It is understood that inspectors visited the top performing Jewish school following complaints.
The Ofsted report acknowledged that pupils’ attainment was high and teaching was effective; but inspectors said the structure of the school amounted to “discrimination” under equality law.
There is a main school and then two separate streams, Yavneh Boys and Yavneh Girls, which offer more orthodox Jewish studies in single-sex classes.
Ofsted said these sections resulted in “unfavourable treatment” for some pupils which affected the curriculum on offer, the length of the school day, and their ability to socialise and learn with others.
The time allocated to art, drama, food technology and music is less in the boys’ section of the school.
Meanwhile, inspectors noted that pupils in the Yavneh Girls section of the school had been denied the opportunity to participate in a production of the musical Hairspray.
In a letter to parents, Joshua Rowe, chair of governors at the school, said Ofsted was “wrong”.
He wrote: “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. As a result, in the school’s view, judgements were made on the basis of a very partial inspection of the school and sometimes without relevant information.”
The school is considering launching a judicial review challenging the Ofsted report.
It comes after the Court of Appeal concluded in 2017 that an Islamic faith school’s policy of segregating boys from girls was unlawful sex discrimination.
Ofsted had placed the mixed-sex Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham into special measures in 2016 after it claimed dividing classes was discriminatory.