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Over ten ‘illegal’ yeshiva schools operating in Stamford Hill


Undercover footage filmed by Channel 4 of a suspected illegal yeshiva school in Stamford Hill

Over 1,000 Jewish boys are being taught in more than 10 unregistered yeshiva schools in the Orthodox Haredi community in Stamford Hill, a Channel 4 documentary has claimed.

Undercover footage from a Dispatches investigation into faith schools, aired Monday night, shows hundreds of boys aged between 13 and 16 coming and going from a property on Lynmouth Road, believed to be one of the illegal yeshivas.

Yeshivas are fee-paying schools established by the Haredi community to educate boys in their traditions and beliefs. Like all independent schools, they are not required to follow the national curriculum but by law must be registered.

Pupils speak out

In the programme, former pupils of the yeshivas spoke out about their education. One student who remained anonymous said: “I didn’t speak English. I only spoke Yiddish. I didn’t even know what the word science meant, I didn’t know the definition, I hadn’t heard this word before.

“We didn’t come out with anything we could use in daily life or even in the future.”

In a statement the programme makers said it was “shocking” that Hackney Council, the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted have known about the unregistered yeshivas for many years but that the schools continue to operate.

The DfE said it has been working with Hackney Council and the Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools on this “long-standing issue” and that the goal is to “get the schools registered”.

Long-standing problem

In a statement released following the airing of the documentary, the council said: “Our concerns about these schools date back many years, and we’ve been working with the DfE and Ofsted to try and engage with them, ensuring they provide the education and care to which all our children have the right.

“Councils’ powers in these situations are very limited; we have no powers of enforcement in relation to private education arrangements.

“Any action would have to come from the Department for Education and we have been working closely with them over several years. That work has so far led to eleven of these twelve schools either being visited by Ofsted, being invited to register or having entered the pre-registration stage.”

The council also pointed out that claims that boys are being “lost” from the system are misleading, as students who attend any private school are not registered.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are aware of all the establishments on the Dispatches’ list. This is a long-standing issue that the DfE has been working on with Hackney Learning Trust and the Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools and Organisations.

“Our goal is to get all of these schools registered and meeting the standards that will be the best outcome for the children. There has been some progress and the DfE is working with those schools to ensure that they meet the standards so that they can be registered.

“Schools that have not responded to the invitation to register have been visited by Ofsted.”

The National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools were unavailable for comment.


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