Ofsted chief tells Orthodox Jewish teachers threatening LGBT+ boycott to accept inclusive education – whether they like it or not

Emma Powys Maurice
·3-min read

Ofsted’s chief inspector has maintained she cannot grant an opt-out for faith schools as a group of Orthodox Jewish teachers continue to oppose LGBT-inclusive education.

Age-appropriate LGBT-inclusive sex and relationships education is now compulsory in all UK schools, a measure that a significant number of Orthodox Jewish schools are refusing to comply with, leading to threats of disciplinary measures from the education regulator Ofsted.

Earlier this year a group of 17 Orthodox rabbis warned Boris Johnson they will steadfastly reject the inclusive curriculum as there is “no room for compromise” in their community.

But chief inspector Amanda Spielman frankly refused to make an exception, telling Charedi headteacher Eli Spitzer “there is literally nothing more” she could do to be flexible on the matter.

“I absolutely do recognise the depths of discomfort around this, yet at the same time there is literally nothing more that I could do to be flexible,” she said on Spitzer’s new podcast, as reported by The Jewish News.

“I do not have the discretion to instruct inspectors not to notice this or that, it’s simply not there.”

The government guidance states that every primary school child will learn about different types of families, including those with same-sex parents, while secondary schools students will learn about sexual orientation and gender identity. The lessons reflect the law, teaching the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010 as they apply to relationships, and have been accepted without question by many faith schools including other Jewish schools.

But Spitzer replied: “If tomorrow I decided to do an assembly on LGBT lifestyles or sex education, one of two things would happen. Either parents would stop sending their children to the school, or I’d be given my sandwiches and a roadmap.”

He accepted that some of the language used towards Ofsted inspectors at Charedi schools had been “confrontational”, but complained that there had been “an assumption that schools are complicit” in the legal requirements that apply to all schools in the country.

Spielman responded that the Charedi educators’ demands amounted to “a fundamental change in the minimum expectation of schools” at state-level, and reminded him that citizens must accept the laws of the land, even the ones they “don’t like”.

“For me it’s a deeply intractable problem. I wish it weren’t,” the Ofsted chief said.

“It’s genuinely hard to see. I don’t agree with every law that sits on the statute books but I have to accept the ones I don’t like. We are at the level of a very deep disagreement of what the state is, and the extent to which there should be opt-outs on the grounds of religion or anything else.”

She said Ofsted was being “beaten up on all sides” as it tries to satisfy each lobby group, adding that the protected characteristics were “bound to bump up against each other”.

Spitzer hit back with the suggestion that the educational regulator should be focusing on parents, not educators. “Your beef is with parents. Why don’t you take it up with them? Go into a synagogue and have it out with them and let us do our job,” he said.