(JTA) – The local council of a London area with many Jewish residents criticized the government’s alleged inaction on unregulated educational institutions serving haredi Orthodox Jews.
The Hackney Council levelled the criticism in a report published this week, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
It says new laws should be considered “as a matter of urgency” to regulate unlicensed institutions, which teach an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 boys aged 13 to 18 in the North London borough.
“There are few if any safeguards in place to ensure their safety and well-being or that they are being taught to an acceptable standard,” says the report after more than a year’s investigation by the council’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Commission.
There was no evidence of a curriculum adequately covering English, math, science or broader humanities subjects, the commission found.
“The fact that a section of the population are not receiving the education deemed to be needed to thrive and live independently cannot be parked indefinitely,” the report said.
Despite the “woefully inadequate” legislation that applied to children taught outside schools, the government had shown a “lack of willingness to engage with the serious nature of the issue and its potential consequences,” the authors of the report wrote.
Although it is illegal to run an unregistered school for children under 16, the commission said the yeshivas are not classified as illegal because they argue their type of education falls outside the legal definition of a school.
It has called for new laws to monitor “out of school” educational settings; to give inspectors greater powers to enter them; and to require parents who home-school their children to register their names with the local authorities.
The council believes there 29 to 35 unregistered yeshivas, although local haredi sources contend there are fewer. Some 13 unregistered institutions are thought to be linked to registered Orthodox independent schools.
Haredi representatives explained that one key reason for not registering yeshivas as independent schools was because of curriculum requirements, producing “irreconcilable differences between what was required to be taught in independent schools and what the Orthodox Jewish community would consider acceptable.”
Following education officials’ inspections of independent schools, the community felt “targeted” and parents would send their children abroad or educate them at home rather than compromise their convictions, the commissioners were warned.