Children and Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by Ateres High School, Gateshead (CSWB 63)

Re: Proposed amendment to the Children’s and Social Work Bill – New Clause 11.

I am writing this memoranda on behalf of my organisation – Ateres High School - Gateshead.

Ateres High School is an independent school with 235 students on roll and provides secondary education for girls from the Orthodox Jewish community of Gateshead.

In addition to my role as Deputy Head of the above organisation, I am also a school governor of a number of other educational settings within my community. The issue referred to in the proposed amendment is an area in which I have a special interest, and I would like to provide factual information of which I would like the Committee to be aware.

The proposed amendment to Children’s & Social Work Bill wishes to make SRE compulsory in all school without taking religious sensitivities and parental views into account.

One of the fundamental tenets of Orthodox Jewish faith is the laws of ‘Tzniyus’ which require adherents to desist from discussing topics relating to relationships and intimacy in an open forum. These topics are required to be presented to children and young adults in a sensitive manner at an appropriate age. The proposed amendment would require our schools to breach the faith of their students by often necessitating SRE to be presented prematurely and to be presented in the incorrect forum.

I have attached below an appendix to our school’s Ethos & Education Policy which outlines our school’s (and community’s) successful approach to SRE in greater detail.

If this became law, it would be almost impossible for many tens of schools within our community to be deemed compliant in any future Ofsted inspection because the law will have disallowed religious values being taken into consideration.

We therefore propose that the amendment should allow for religious sensitivities to be taken into account and should allow for parents and students to opt out of SRE for reasons relating to their faith.

Samuel Rosenthal
Deputy Head - Ateres High School

January 2017

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APPENDIX TO ETHOS & EDUCATION POLICY

ATERES HIGH SCHOOL

APPENDIX 1:

The Orthodox (Haredi) Jewish community in the UK are proud of being British citizens and place a large emphasis on abiding by the rule of law. We are also proud to be part of the multicultural mosaic of modern day Britain.

Our community always strives to be understanding, respectful & tolerant of all faiths and cultures. In fact, this is referred to as ‘Kiddush Hashem’, which means to sanctify the name of the Almighty – as by interacting respectfully with other cultures, this demonstrates how our religious ethos brings to peace and a harmonious relationship between ourselves and those who differ from ourselves.

Our students interact with people from other faiths on a regular basis whether it’s on a shopping trip or a day out. They are educated both at home and in school to make a ‘Kiddush Hashem’ and to treat others with true respect and dignity.

Our ethos is guided by the Torah and the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) and the School has a commitment to parents to abide by Orthodox Jewish law as mandated by the Torah & the Shulchan Aruch.

One of the fundamental teachings of the Torah is that ‘dinah demalchusah dinah’ which means that we are required to respect and adhere to the laws of the land in which we reside.

One of the core foundations of our faith are the laws of tzniyus, which prevent us from discussing openly issues relating to relationships & intimacy.

As a result of abidance to the laws of the Torah (which include the laws of tzniyus), all forms of criminality, teenage pregnancies & relationships outside of marriage are almost non-existent in our community.

SRE:

Most schools nationally provide appropriate SRE education to students as outlined in the National Curriculum.

The main purposes of this are as follows:

a) To educate about and promote stable & ethical relationships

b) To educate about and promote physical health both during & after intercourse.

c) To prevent sexual abuse and exploitation

Ateres complies with the requirement to provide SRE in line with Orthodox Jewish law as outlined below.

It has been recognised by the UK Government that marriage is a key factor in promoting stable, successful and fulfilling relationships. In fact Orthodox Jewish Law forbids relationships outside of marriage and requires steps to be taken that significantly reduce physical & social contact between the sexes (where they are not married or related to each other), which thereby reduce the risk of affairs, arousal of illicit sexual desires & sexual abuse. It has also been recognised that a cohesive family unit based on the commitment provided by marriage, provides the most effective outcomes for children.

Jewish Law also requires that marriage & intercourse must be totally by consent. Marriage is discouraged until full adulthood as we believe that life-changing decisions must be only be made once full maturity has been reached. It is extremely rare that an Orthodox Jewish marriage takes place before age 18 – 19, and Orthodox Jewish girls and boys date each other and ensure they both share common values before agreeing to ‘tie the knot’.

Ateres achieves the goals of promoting SRE in the following ways:

· We place a great emphasis on ‘bein odom lechaveroi’ which instils in our students the benefits of focusing on the needs and requirements of others and eliminating self-centred behaviour. We believe that this is the key to successful and stable relationships. This is accessed through the following areas of the curriculum: Citizenship, Pirkei Ovos, Sedra, Lilo, Hashkofo & Chumash. Many extra-curricular events are also based on this theme.

· As a result of the restrictions that Orthodox Law places on relationships outside of marriage, it is not necessary to educate our students at this stage about physical health during intercourse and about contraception. Orthodox Jewish Law requires that these topics are comprehensively covered at a later stage prior to marriage.

· Our parents understand that they have a primary role to play in SRE and this is embedded in our culture.

· In order to ensure that our students are not subjected to sexual exploitation and abuse, we have a strong pastoral team which closely monitors the welfare of our students.

Our Pastoral team/student ratio is currently 1:21. Our Pastoral team is made up of Form Teachers with each Form teacher responsible for her Form group. Each Form Teacher must teach her form group a number of lessons each week and engage with them on a one to one basis. The Form Teachers are required to spend at least four free lessons in school each week to be available for their pastoral roles.

The Form Teachers are line managed by the Principal and they are required to monitor any changes in behaviour. They achieve this through direct contact, checking Homework diaries, reading NCLB forms & accessing data produced by other teachers about her form. Where a concern has been raised, the Form Teacher will take the appropriate action and will report to the Principal as appropriate. Where the concern is related to Child Protection, the Form Teacher will report the concern to the Child Protection officer who will follow the School’s procedures outlined in the School’s Child Protection Policy.

Where the Form Teacher feels it may be necessary to discuss issues relating to SRE with a student, this shall be done sensitively & discreetly in accordance with the above-mentioned laws of tzniyus. All Form Teachers are authorised by the Principal to discuss these issues privately with students where and when they see it is required.

We also do not provide our students with reading material that discusses love and intimacy even where it is referring to love within marriage. Besides for this being a breach in tzniyus, we also believe that promoting discussion about these topics can arouse our students to desire relationships before they have reached full maturity.

Alternative lifestyles:

Although Orthodox Jewish Law forbids homosexuality, we are required to be tolerant of all those who share different beliefs & who choose different life-styles to our own (see above).

In the event that a girl reveals to her Form teacher (see above) that she has a tendency towards an alternative lifestyle such as homosexuality or gender reassignment, the girl must be treated with care and respect.

In all other forums, discussions with students regarding relationships both heterosexual and homosexual may not take place on the school premises and discussing it with students would be deemed to be encouraging them to break their faith (as above).

Brief Summary of topics that may only be discussed in private and with authorisation from the SLT:

The following topics (or anything related to these topics) may only be discussed with students by members of staff who have been authorised to do so by the Principal – these members of staff have been trained to discuss these topics where necessary in a culturally sensitive way:

1) Relationships outside of marriage (e.g. boyfriend/girlfriend).

2) Sexuality (both heterosexuality and homosexuality).

3) Intimacy and sex.

4) Contraception.

 

Prepared 9th January 2017