As in both the U.S. and Israel, some Orthodox Jews in the UK worry that their schools will face governmental scrutiny for deviating from standard curricula. What is particular about the British case is that Ḥasidim are not only concerned about the introduction of secular studies, but also about sex-education requirements imposed by the Office of Standards in Education (Ofsted), the official body responsible for overseeing schools. Simon Rocker writes:
The government is looking to close a loophole whereby institutions such as yeshivot that teach an exclusive religious curriculum do not count as schools under the current legal definition and therefore escape Ofsted scrutiny. An estimated 1,500 strictly Orthodox teenagers of school age in Hackney—below the age of sixteen—are thought to be enrolled in yeshivot where they pursue purely Jewish studies.
If the Schools Bill [put before parliament, and likely to be tabled for the time being], were passed, yeshivot would be treated as independent schools and required to teach some secular subjects, as well as relationships and sex education, including LGBT awareness. Ofsted would get new powers to investigate unregistered institutions and home-schooled children would have to be registered with the local authority.
Defenders of the yeshivot argue that their educational system produces well-adjusted, law-abiding citizens, whose wits have been sharpened by years immersed in the classical education of Talmud; and that their youth can always take career-oriented training after they emerge from yeshivah. They will also point to efforts to improve secular tuition in strictly Orthodox primary schools in recent years (efforts, it has to be said, that have followed pressure from Ofsted). . . .
However, the demands of relationships and sex education remain a red line that only strengthens the resolve not to bow to the state. So far there has been no indication the government is willing to budge. As one senior education official in a council explained it to me, teaching about LGBT identity is a matter of safeguarding so that children who might experience feelings of difference might receive sympathetic treatment. Yet it could be argued that compelling ḥaredi schools to raise this in the classroom might not be the best way to support such children within those communities.
More about: Anglo-Jewry, Haredim, Hasidism, Jewish education