Faith schools comprise one third of the UK school community. Many of these schools are over-subscribed, often reaching the top of local league tables and, more recently, reaching the top percentage of schools as high achievers in Progress 8.
It therefore appears not only contradictory but also plainly ridiculous that a good number of Britain’s flagship schools who provide an excellent education, prepare children for modern Britain and contribute very well to wider society, seem under threat.
So what is being threatened? Answer, their essential ethos and values, which without question underpin their culture of success. Faith schools intrinsically believe not only in a higher Deity who has ultimate power and leadership over the world, thus instilling an essence of modesty within its followers, but all the stakeholders in faith schools also exude a culture of loving and respecting one’s neighbour as an essential feature of human worth.
Yet authorities, including the Department for Education and Ofsted, relentlessly attack those essential faith values under the guise of “Fundamental British Values”.
As a proud British citizen, born and bred and educated, who subsequently married and brought up a family in the UK, I, and many other education and faith leaders, do not share the school inspectors’ definition of “fundamental British values”. In our book, those values exude tolerance, morality, respect and lawfulness; in the DfE and Osfted’s book, those values are defined by using a blinkered lens imposing anti-faith principles steered by minority lobbying groups.
In numerous meetings with the DfE and Ofsted, their leaders will claim, with wide-eyed innocence, that they really aren’t anti-faith; but they insist that we teach our children their own contemporary wisdom that blatantly contradicts not only Bible teachings, but the morals and ethos that we espouse. In the guise of the need to prepare children for modern Britain, a priority for them is to evidence our teaching of alternative lifestyles, which are heavily publicised by the media. How can Ofsted claim not to be anti-faith, if they do not respect what our faith is telling us?
Along with many English Literature students, I studied Animal Farm in school. Never would I have thought that in my lifetime, in Britain, the dictum of “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others” would be so evident here. The 2010 Equalities Act, which was laudably set out to ensure all people are treated equally, is in fact abused regularly by prioritising one “equality” over the other.
So this is what a number of strictly orthodox Jewish schools are having to endure: unreasonable expectations in the delivery of our education, mandating subjects and topics that go against our sacred teachings. But are our schools under threat? The schools maybe; but the education certainly not. However powerful the DfE and Ofsted may think they are, the eternity and tradition of the last 5,000 years, which has determined our existence, will never be threatened.
Executive Director, NAJOS