1,000 London Students Attend Illegal Orthodox Schools: Report

A London firm working with a local education authority said that Jewish schools told it to destroy evidence that up to 1,000 Jewish children were being educated in illegal faith schools.

The reports about heders — informal haredi Orthodox Jewish schools, some of them operating without permit and teaching only scripture instead of the national curriculum – located in the London borough of Hackney appeared Sunday in The Independent.

According to the report, employees of the Hackney Learning Trust, a private firm working for the municipal council of Hackney, in 2010 informed a municipal official that the firm had destroyed evidence of the attendance of pupils in heders at the request of Jewish educational institutions.

In the meeting, Trust representatives said that they had asked legal Jewish state schools — which teach scripture in addition to the required curriculum — to inform the Trust when a child was taken away by their parents to attend an illegal one instead. But some of the schools threatened legal action against the Trust, prompting it to back down and agree to destroy all evidence it collected on the issue.

The minutes of the 2010 meeting record that a senior Department for Education staff member was present at the meeting and had agreed to inform the Department of all that was discussed.

According to The Independent, some 1,000 children are currently missing from schools in London and may be attending illegal faith schools.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain, chair of the Accord Coalition which links religious and secular groups to promote inclusive education, told The Independent: “There has long been an open secret in the Jewish world that ultra-Orthodox schools have been operating in Hackney and are not registered with the Department of Education. In essence, they are illegal schools, but authorities appear to be turning a blind eye.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “Nothing is more important than keeping children safe. It is the local authority’s responsibility to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect and they take these seriously.”

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