One of the Jewish schools in Stamford Hill which has come under fire for banning women from driving their children to school has applied for ‘voluntary aided’ status, the Hackney Citizen can reveal.
Beis Malka Girls Primary, an Independent Orthodox Jewish day school with around 400 pupils, has put in a proposal to set up as a voluntary aided (VA) school from September 2015.
VA schools are state-funded with a foundation or trust (usually a religious organisation) contributing to building costs and holding substantial influence over the running of the school.
The school is one of two primaries run by the Belz sect, part of the Orthodox branch of Hassidic Judaism, which recently sent letters to parents asking women to stop driving to the school gates, or risk having their children withdrawn.
A Hackney Council spokesperson confirmed the school has been asked to provide a copy of the letter issued to parents and to confirm the school’s position.
In the letter, seen by the Jewish Chronicle the Belz rabbis said that having female drivers goes against “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp.”
One Stamford Hill Rabbi said it has “always been regarded in Chasidic circles as not the done thing for a lady to drive”.
But the order was met with anger by many leading Jewish figures including Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and UK Ambassador of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance Dina Brawer.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan criticised the order as “completely unacceptable in modern Britain”.
Ahron Klein, the chief executive of the Beis Malka Trust which runs both schools told the Evening Standard: “We fully accept that despite being private schools we have responsibilities to our members and to the wider public. However, as private schools we have the freedom to set our own high standards by which we seek to live and bring up our children.”
But the school has now applied to join three Jewish primaries and two secondaries as a Voluntary Aided school.
Hackney Council must decide the proposal within two months of the end of the representation period or the decision defaults to the Schools Adjudicator.
A Council spokesperson said that in reaching a decision on the proposal the Local Authority is required to have “regard to a number of factors such as equal opportunity issues and community cohesion”.
Both the Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass school for boys and Beis Malka school for girls, which are run by the Belz sect, were rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2010 and 2013.
The 2013 Ofsted report for Beis Malka Girls states: “Provision for [the pupils] spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is also outstanding.”
The Hackney Citizen contacted Beis Malka Girls School to ask about its application for VA status but has not received a reply.