Government called on to ensure children in unregistered schools are safe

Government called on to ensure children in unregistered schools are safe

Hackney Council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Commission has released a report into unregistered educational settings, calling on the government to strengthen legislation to ensure children in unregistered ‘schools’ are safe.

It follows a year-long investigation by the Commission, which heard that across the country, up to 6,000 children attend as many as 290 unregistered educational settings.

In Hackney, around 29 unregistered yeshivas offer religious teaching to approximately 1,000-1,500 boys within the Charedi Orthodox Jewish community.

The wide-ranging investigation received evidence from organisations including the Department for Education, Ofsted, the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board, Interlink, the London Fire Brigade, Hackney Council’s children’s social care and education departments, the Union of Hebrew Congregations and the Partnership for Jewish Schools. It also conducted a survey, inviting members of the Charedi community to share their experiences anonymously.

Key concerns detailed in the report are around an apparent lack of safeguarding procedures, the narrow educational focus of yeshivas, and a lack of interaction with education and safeguarding professionals.

The investigation found serious failings in government policy, which allows illegal ‘schools’ to operate without appropriate safeguarding, health and safety or curriculum standards. The report calls on the council to continue its lobbying of government for an effective legislative framework.

In the report, the Commission makes a series of recommendations. It calls on the council to formalise the work it has been doing around the issues of unregistered settings by publishing its strategy. It also calls on the Charedi community to work with the local Safeguarding Children Board to establish a safeguarding process.

Cllr Chris Kennedy, chair of the children and young people commission, said: “The issue of unregistered educational settings is an issue that the council has been working on behind the scenes for a long time. Following a series of incidents including the near-tragedy that happened when a group of Charedi boys had to be rescued on the Kent coast, we feel that now is the time to shine a light on the serious concerns shared by the Commission, the council and many others who work with children in Hackney and beyond.

“Our research brought to the fore the fundamental clash between parents’ wishes to educate their children in these settings and the rights of children to a broad education, where their safety is paramount. We’ve made a number of recommendations and have been clear that the council needs to continue to do all it can to work with the Charedi community to ensure the safety of all our children.”

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