Community criticise Ofsted for planning faith-school meeting for Rosh Hashanah
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Community criticise Ofsted for planning faith-school meeting for Rosh Hashanah

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

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by Stephen Oryszczuk

Schools inspectorate Ofsted has been heavily criticised by the Jewish community for scheduling a meeting of London’s faith schools over Rosh Hashanah.

Only after school leaders highlighted their difficulty in attending did Ofsted bosses offer to find alternative dates, but not before Orthodox community leaders reacted in anger to the snub.

Stamford Hill spokesman Rabbi Avroham Pinter said it showed “a blatant disregard for our faith,” while Mordechai Halpern, chairman of governors of Yesoday Hatorah School in Manchester, said it was “lam­entable”.

Meanwhile Rabbi Yehudah Baumgarten, who chairs the education committee of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, said: “There is great concern in the community.”

An Ofsted spokesman did not confirm whether the meeting’s scheduling on one of Judaism’s high holy days was an oversight, but said: “Orthodox Jewish schools are a valued section of the independent sector.”

He added: “We hope that representatives are able to attend events on days that do not fall within holidays or on religious days. If this is not possible, then we will work with them to find alternative dates.”

For some, it was ‘too little, too late,’ with Halpern among those accusing Ofsted of ignorance. “Surely they should be critical of their own lack of knowledge of the Jewish religion, or at least of their insensitivity to the sanctity of the Jewish High Holiday,” he said. “Do they respect other religions?”

Orthodox school leaders have turned on Ofsted in recent months following a series of downgrades and surprise inspections. Last year, JFS was stunned after a downgrade from ‘outstanding’ to ‘requires improvement.’

At Beis Yaakov in Salford, inspectors placed the school under ‘special measures,’ while in London, Talmud Torah Tiferes Shlomoh in Golders Green and Yetev Lev, a Satmar school, were also branded ‘inadequate’.

Stamford Hill’s Talmud Torah Chaim Meirim Wiznitz also faced a scathing report.

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