British Jewish girl’s school flunks tolerance test

Inspection of all UK religious education institutions comes in response to allegations that hardline Muslims imposed beliefs on students

Illustrative photo of ultra-Orthodox school girls in New York. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of ultra-Orthodox school girls in New York. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

A British Jewish school failed government inspections for lacking “tolerance.”

The Beis Yaakov secondary school for girls in Salford near Manchester received an “inadequate” in snap inspections conducted by educational officials from the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, according to a report Wednesday in The Guardian, which said the school had enjoyed a “good” ranking before the inspection.

Two additional Jewish schools had their rating lowered following inspections conducted last month in the wake of what British media are calling “Operation Trojan Horse.” The inspections of all religious schools come in response to allegations that Muslim lay leaders are imposing discriminatory and extremist practices in their administration of publicly funded schools.

Michael Wilshaw, chief of the standards office, or Ofsted, said in June that a “culture of fear and intimidation has taken grip” of some schools in the Birmingham areas, which Ofsted began probing amid complaints that hardline Muslims were imposing their beliefs on students and teachers.

Some of the schools and parents have said that the complaints are overblown and amount to fear mongering, but Ofsted began carried out surprise inspections in 21 schools, including some Jewish ones.

In a report on the Beis Yaakov school, Ofsted inspectors wrote, “The school does not promote adequately students’ awareness and tolerance of communities which are different to their own. As a result, the school does not prepare students adequately for life in modern Britain.”

The management of Beis Yaakov made a formal complaint to Ofsted over the conduct of the inspection, with pupils at the all-girls school reported to have felt bullied by inspectors’ questions about homosexuality and whether pupils had friends from other faiths, The Guardian reported.

A recent Ofsted inspection led to the downgrading of the London Jewish secondary school JFS from “outstanding” to “requires improvement” this year — despite a 99.9 percent pass rate in exams for Britain’s General Certificate of Secondary Education, or GCSE, test for high school students.

The national pass rate for 2014 was 73.1 percent for girls and 64.3 percent for boys.

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