Orthodox school criticised by inspectors for not preparing pupils for life in modern Britain

By Simon Rocker (The Jewish Chronicle)
February 5, 2016

Teachers at a Chasidic school painted over pictures of women in short-sleeved shirts because of religious sensitivities, inspectors have reported.

Talmud Torah Toldos Yaakov Yosef, an independent school for boys aged from 2 to 12 in Hackney, north London was criticised for failing to prepare pupils for “life in modern Britain”.

Following an unannounced visit to the school in December, Ofsted said that pupils’ reading and writing, educational resources and safety arrangements had still not improved sufficiently for the school to meet the standards expected of independent schools.

In a report published this week, inspectors noted that one teacher struggled to explain to pupils the difference between “pail” and “pale” in an English lesson.

Pupils had limited opportunities to “speak, write and read in English”.

Some reading books were at least 40 years old and “falling apart”, while learning resources were poor.

“Many images of people in swimming costumes on the beach or women wearing short-sleeved shirts had been painted over in line with the religious beliefs of the school,” inspectors said. “Staff agreed with inspectors that these materials do not present pupils with an accurate picture of life in modern Britain.”

Pupils were also not told about “sexual orientation”, Ofsted said. “The headteacher told inspectors that these issues are a ‘red line’ for the school and would not be taught or referenced in policies or lessons.”

The school also did not take into account government guidelines on cyber-bullying because “leaders feel that this is unnecessary as the school does not use computers and other modern techniques”.

However, several pupils told inspectors that they had access to smartphones and computers at home.

Inspectors also found that while there were “a very small number of educational visits outside the Charedi community, these do not help pupils gain sufficient knowledge and understanding of wider society and life in Britain today.”

The pupils, which has 157 boys, was previously inspected in late 2014.