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Growing concern over controversies in faith schools.

The Guardian made this report on incidents took place in Faith Schools.

Investigation after pupils say they were ‘pinched and slapped’ at faith school

Ofsted refers safeguarding concerns after pupils at Talmud Torah Yetev Lev primary report physical sanctions



Jewish schools have complained of being disproportionately targeted by Ofsted. Photograph: Graham Turner/The Guardian

A safeguarding investigation is under way at a private Jewish primary school in north London after pupils reported being pinched and slapped by staff as punishment.

Ofsted inspectors who visited Talmud Torah Yetev Lev school, in north London, last month were told by pupils that “inappropriate physical contact” was used to manage pupil behaviour at the boys-only school.

“Of greatest concern is that pupils reported that physical sanctions are adopted by staff in the event of pupil misbehaviour, including cheek pinching, smacking and slapping,” the inspectors said in their report.

The Ofsted inspectors reported their concerns to the local authority, Hackney, after their unannounced visit in late January. Ofsted rated the school as inadequate on all counts, the third time it has been given its lowest rating since 2014.

“Safeguarding concerns raised by some pupils during the inspection are being investigated by the appropriate public bodies. Ofsted does not have the power to investigate concerns of this kind,” Ofsted reported in its conclusion of the inspection.

Talmud Torah Yetev Lev did not answer requests for a response.

The school, near Stamford Hill, has an Orthodox Jewish ethos and is registered to admit 567 boys aged between two and 12. However, the inspectors discovered more than 1,200 pupils on the school’s roll, including pupils aged 13 and 14, in breach of its registration as an independent school.

Jewish schools have long complained of being disproportionately targeted by Ofsted, especially over new regulations involving the teaching of fundamental British values. In 2017 Ofsted gave inadequate grades to a group of Orthodox Jewish schools, including the Vishnitz Girls and Yesodey Hatorah schools in Stamford Hill, for failing to promote respect and tolerance.

The inspectors’ findings underline Ofsted and the Department for Education’s lack of powers to directly intervene in private schools, despite repeated inadequate classifications. It follows similar concerns about safeguarding and management at a string of state and private Steiner schools.

The Talmud Torah Yetev Lev inspection report included alarming details of poor supervision of children as young as four and five: “In reception, leaders and adults do not supervise children effectively to ensure they play and learn safely. For instance, inspectors observed children standing on tables and chairs and playing on staircases.”

The report also found “serious health and safety hazards” at one of the school’s sites, and that one of its buildings was unsafe, while pupils were seen running through corridors even when adults were present. Attendance records were described as “disorganised and unreliable”.

Inspectors noted a pile of rubbish and large holes in the playground surface at one site, which the school’s leaders rectified once the problems had been brought to their attention.

Ofsted also found that much of the quality of teaching and learning by pupils was inadequate. Much of the school day is taken up with religious study, with secular subjects studied for just 90 minutes each afternoon.

But the inspectors did praise the school for the quality of its religious teaching and the positive attitude of pupils: “The teaching of the religious curriculum is effective and contributes positively to pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.”

Despite the safeguarding concerns, pupils told inspectors they felt safe from bullying and able to speak to staff to resolve any problems.


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Syed Isteak Hossain Shawon