Report: 1,000 Jewish Children Attend Illegal Religious Schools in London

A London firm says it had evidence showing pupils were being taught in illegal ulta-Orthodox Jewish schools, operating without permits and neglecting the national curriculum.

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Young ultra-Orthodox men heading to synagogue in north London, Britain, on Purim in March 2016.
Young ultra-Orthodox men heading to synagogue in north London, Britain, on Purim in March 2016. Credit: Neil Hall/ Reuters

A London firm said it destroyed evidence several years ago that Jewish children were being educated in illegal faith schools, a British newspaper reported.

The reports about heders — informal Haredi Orthodox Jewish schools, some of them operating without permits and teaching only scripture instead of the national curriculum – 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, informed a municipal official in 2010 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 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 out by their parents to attend an illegal school. 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 of Education staff member was present at the meeting and agreed to inform the department of all that was discussed.

According to The Independent, some 1,000 Jewish children are not registered in official schools in London and may be attending illegal faith schools.

“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,” Rabbi Jonathan Romain, chair of the Accord Coalition that links religious and secular groups to promote inclusive education, told The Independent. “In essence, they are illegal schools, but authorities appear to be turning a blind eye.”

A Department of Education spokesman 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.”