Councils need ‘better powers to tackle rogue faith schools’
Councils are powerless to stop pupils from being educated in rogue faith schools with 1000 boys attending unregistered schools in one London borough alone, according to a report from Hackney Council.
Between 1000 and 1500 Orthodox Jewish boys from the Charedi community were being educated at unregistered schools in Hackney and the council was powerless to stop them using current powers.
The report said local authorities needed the Government to extend the legal definition of school to cover part-time religious settings, to expand the powers of entry, inspection and enforcement for local authorities, and to improve regulation around home schooling.
Hackney Council’s report is the culmination of a year long investigation into rogue schools in the borough.
It is hoped the Government will use the report findings to beef up existing legislation.
In its report, the commission said it recognised that the cultural and educational traditions of the Charedi community were at odds with the “council’s statutory duty to safeguard local children”.
The commissions blamed “patchy legislation” which it said made it “impossible to satisfy themselves that the expected standards of safeguarding are in place”.
Chris Kennedy, chairman of the children and young people scrutiny commission, said: “Now is the time to shine a light on the serious concerns . . . The Government holds the key to enable agencies to bring unregistered settings into compliance, and I would echo the council’s repeated calls for them to do something about this situation.”
The Charedi community were surveyed anonymously about their concerns with the borough’s makeshift religious schools as part of the investigation.
Respondents flagged including an apparent lack of safeguarding as well as narrow educational focus, physical abuse being used as a method of punishment, long hours and the safety of buildings that were often old, unsuitable and cramped.