Children and Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Mrs Judith Nemeth, Executive Director of NAJOS, the National Association of Jewish Orthodox Schools (CSWB 56)

NAJOS represents over 70 strictly Orthodox Jewish schools in the UK. I am submitting a protest to the amendment known as Clause 11 of the Children's and Social Work Bill.

In this submission I will include:

· The objection to Clause 11 as it does not take into consideration the values of religious groups

· The objection to Clause 11 as it has not gone through the consultation process in education circles

· Facts and figures supporting the objection

Religious approach to sex education

1. Sex education, in the format being proposed, in a school setting is not a topic that can be a legal requirement as it does not take into account religious values and laws that play a great part in understanding relationships. Whilst it is understood that some children are exposed to relationships in all shape and form at a young age and therefore need to be prepared for what they will confront, this is not the case with strictly religious communities.

2. 99% of pupils in our Orthodox Jewish schools will not have sexual relationships with the opposite sex before marriage. They will also not have sexual relationships with the same sex at all throughout their lives as this is forbidden by our Torah law. We are not burying our heads in the sand saying same sex relationships do not exist, but, as they are forbidden in the Bible they cannot be taught as a school topic.

3. Our schools regularly feature in the top levels in all league tables. It will be impossible for our schools to be compliant in this new clause thus making it impossible for us to maintain the very high standards of compliance that we currently hold.

4. In our community we take great care in preparing a young bride and groom for the physical relationship in marriage. Once they have committed to marrying each other, each of them will attend 1-1 sessions of between 8 and 12 sessions preparing them in every aspect of their relationships – physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. No stone is left unturned. That way not only are our young adequately prepared, they have someone to whom to turn after they are married should problems arise. I have been a tutor for engaged couples for over 25 years and have first-hand experience on the effectiveness of the teaching and training that we give that prepares new families in an outstanding way.

5. This system of teaching young people what they need to know, when they need to know, has worked excellently for generations – our communities are models of sound families based on traditional family values.

6. Our youth generally do not have access to smart phones or unfiltered internet therefore there is no need for them to be "prepared" for what they may confront. There will be some children who do manage to access unfiltered internet and therefore may meet pornography, chat rooms etc. head on. Our antennae are very carefully attuned to the children who will be accessing such material and this is being dealt with in a quiet way, mentoring the children to what is best for them.

7. Our community thrives on very high standards of dignity and modesty. These values are personified in the way we dress, talk and interact with the opposite sex. We set up clear guidelines and boundaries, stemming from our Jewish law, that prevents us from slipping into behaviours that are not conducive to orthodox Jewish practice. Hence for us to be made to discuss topics such as same sex relationships and sexual consent in a public forum such as the classroom, or even at all, is a complete denigration of our religious standards.

8. This paper only takes into account the needs and values of strictly Orthodox Jewish schools. I am sure that there are many other faith groups who would seriously object to Clause 11 for the same reasons as this paper proposes. They are probably unaware of this clause’s exsistence.

Lack of Consultation

9. We are outraged that this clause is being tabled in a bill that does not directly affect education. This clause may have gone unnoticed by the education community. Whilst there seems to have been some consultation with groups who are concerned about vulnerable children, there was no initial indication that this Bill would include a clause that could affect every pupil in the country.

10. In order to pass a law that will affect every pupil in the country, there must be, in the name of true democracy, a full consultation made reaching the entire educational community in the UK. The fact that this clause is being "slipped in" to a welfare bill seems, to all who have now heard about this, devious and political. Maybe the failure to make SRE compulsory in 2014 have moved politicians to try and pass this law without consultation in order to get this passed unnoticed.

Facts and Figures

11. There are cases of domestic violence in our communities that are dealt with firmly and tactfully.

12. The incidence of teenage pregnancies in our schools is extremely low

13. Our pupils do not have smart phones so sexting does not exist.

14. Most of our pupils do not also have Facebook, Instagram etc so they cannot be harried or bullied by such media.

15. Our pupils are taught respect for: each other; themselves; other faiths and non-faiths; family life; alternative family structures; values other than their own. These lessons are taught formally and informally, during religious and secular lessons.

Conclusion

Prince Charles said, in his supportive speech on Thought for the Day last week:  "…the destination is the same – to value and respect the other person acting the right to live out their peaceful response to the love of God".  That respect is all we want; to respect and be respected. If that value is what prompted our future monarch of the realm to come to the air waves during Christmas week, surely, as subjects of the realm, we must all be seen to be honouring all those who serve God.

January 2017

 

Prepared 9th January 2017