Young Jews made to attend illegal ‘yeshivas’ where no traditional subjects are taught and pupils are told that “everything outside is bad and evil”
As many as a thousand boys aged 13 to 16 have disappeared from the registered school system in East London after their parents sent them to illegal religious schools where English is not spoken and academic subjects are not taught.
Government documents obtained by Channel 4’s Dispatches and the Jewish Chronicle newspaper say that many of the schools are “operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks”.
Many boys in the Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill, London, “will stop secular studies at the age of 13 or 14 and start attending ‘yeshivas’ where the curriculum is solely religious,” the documents say.
Between 800 and 1000 boys aged between 13 and 16 are “missing” from the school system in the borough of Hackney alone, the papers add.
Undercover filming by Dispatches in and around the schools shows the boys packed more than 50 to a classroom in dirty, run-down buildings, some converted houses. More than a hundred boys were filmed going in to an illegal school in Lynmouth Road, Stamford Hill, arriving from 7.30 in the morning and leaving late at night. The establishment is believed to be one of twelve illegal schools in the neighbourhood.
Former pupils at the Hackney schools told Dispatches that they spoke entirely in Yiddish and that secular subjects were not taught. “I didn’t even know what the word science meant. I hadn’t heard this word before,” said one.
The former pupils said that one of the purposes of the schools was to ensure that children lacked any knowledge or skills which might enable them to leave the Orthodox enclave and lead a normal adult life outside.
“I was told terrible things about non-Jews,” said one former pupil.
“In order to keep such a vast number of people enclosed, they are indoctrinating from a very young age that everything outside is bad and evil. We didn’t come out with anything we could use in daily life or in the future. It bothers me that children are being taught so much lies and rubbish about the outside world.”
All schools, state and private, must be registered and failing to attend one until the age of 16 is illegal. However, the Department for Education and Hackney Council have been accused of taking a softly-softly approach to the problem.
The document which says the schools are operating without basic safety and welfare checks dates from 2009. Another document, from 2011, describes it as a “significant problem,” but the schools continue to operate illegally.
A spokesman for the council said: “Our concerns about these schools date back many years, but we have no powers of enforcement. Any action would have to come from the DfE and we have been working closely with them over several years. That work has so far led to 11 of these twelve schools either being visited by Ofsted, being invited to register or having entered the pre-registration stage.
The DfE said: “This is a long-standing issue that we have been working on with Hackney Learning Trust and the Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools and Organisations. There has been some progress and we are working with those schools to ensure that they meet the standards so that they can be registered.” The schools did not comment.
Separately, Ofsted has launched emergency inspections of three Muslim schools in Blackburn after Dispatches filmed staff at one of them branding clapping as “Satanic.”
In undercover footage taken in the staffroom, teaching assistants at the Olive Primary School also say that music in school should be banned as “un-Islamic,” that the wearing of ties is forbidden as they could turn into serpents on the Day of Judgment, and that gay people should be “stoned to death.”
Olive Primary, which is run by the Tauheedul Education Trust, and two other secondaries in Blackburn also run by the trust, were given snap inspections by Ofsted on Tuesday after Channel 4 or the school told the DfE of the secret filming.
The trust claimed that the inspections had gone “very well” and promised to act “if anything that emerges on the film is shown to undermine our progressive vision, ethos and approach.” It said it was “shocked and disappointed” at being “targeted” by Dispatches.
The trust’s flagship Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School and Sixth Form College, founded in 1984, has regularly been given an ‘outstanding’ rating by Ofsted.
The Trust also runs a boys’ secondary school and the Olive Primary and has ambition to become a beacon national chain of Islamic faith schools.
Faith Schools Undercover: No Clapping in Class is on Channel 4 at 8pm