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HomeNewsThe Haredi community’s forceful response to the ‘children missing education’ consultation

The Haredi community’s forceful response to the ‘children missing education’ consultation

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AN estimated 10,000 responses have been handed to the Government from the Haredi community in answer to the call for evidence on ‘children missing education’, which I wrote about here. 

The extent of involvement reflects the community’s steadfast dedication to voicing their concerns and preserving their rights to educate children outside the state system.

The proposed Register Bill poses a significant threat to the rights of parents opting for home education, replacing parental choice with a state-driven ideology mandating stringent regulations. This encroachment jeopardises not only parental rights but also the very essence of our faith, culture, and traditional lifestyle cherished by the strictly orthodox Jewish community.

Below is a summary of the essence of the responses.

Including additional children in the statutory duty for Children Missing Education is impractical, strains resources, and potentially infringes on parental rights. Such expansion could result in overlooking children in greatest need of support within the system. The current emphasis on high-risk cases allows for targeted support. It is important to respect alternative educational pathways and consider individual circumstances. Balancing the need for privacy and supporting collaboration between parents and their own communities proves to be a more effective approach. Maintaining this delicate balance is crucial.

Parents’ role in supporting the education of their children is commonly undervalued by children’s professionals. When motivated, their involvement builds trust and maintains motivation. Parents understand their child’s unique needs and are therefore best placed to provide individualised support. Respecting family dynamics, and parental responsibilities and rights is crucial. Parental accountability ensures a committed approach to the child’s education. Respecting parents empowers them to make choices in the best interest of their child. Fines, which are a form of bullying, support no one and the idea of using criminal law in this way should be abandoned.

There are many children for whom the mainstream classroom isn’t a good place. For such children home education (or some alternative settings) provides the individualised learning, tailored attention, diverse resources, autonomy which result in successful outcomes for many children. In contrast, full-time education in an average classroom has many disadvantages for an increasing number of children. These include a lack of personal attention, rigid and increasingly ideological curriculum, peer pressures, and standardised teaching methods and assessments which do not cater to diverse learning styles. Home education in particular addresses these drawbacks, allowing for a more personalised, supportive, often safer and effective learning experience for children missing education.

School attendance orders are ineffective for bringing back children missing education. They overlook individual circumstances, impede parental engagement, and fail to address underlying issues. Relying excessively on fear undermines alternative education approaches and personalised learning. Enforcement efforts divert resources from identifying the root causes and can stigmatise children. A proper supportive approach acknowledges individual circumstances, upholds parental rights, explores alternative options, and appropriately allocates diverse resources. Such an approach ensures meaningful and inclusive education for all children.

Promoting parental responsibility instead of imposing penalties. Emphasising targeted support, including recognising and respecting home education, to foster inclusivity and empower parents in making educational choices, without any intrusion into their private lives. Valuing diverse learning paths, upholding privacy rights, considering individual circumstances, and respecting legal considerations.

Improving processes for ‘searching out’ Children Missing Education is inefficient and infringes on parental rights. Limited impact, resource allocation, diverse learning pathways, individual circumstances, collaborative approach, and legal considerations argue against improvement efforts. Respecting privacy rights and complete freedom to home educate is crucial. Recognising the value of alternative education pathways and individual circumstances is essential for effectively addressing Children Missing Education.

The recent efforts by local authorities to identify all children missing education are concerning, as they appear to be a deceptive tactic aimed at undermining parental authority. They are also constrained by limited resources and community support networks. It is crucial to respect parental autonomy and parents’ legal rights to ensure the protection of children. The proposed regulations, which include terms like ‘ethnicity’, ‘demographic information’, ‘reasons for EHE [elective home education]’, and ‘information about the child`s welfare and general circumstances’, grant the government excessive control based on unfounded assumptions. It erroneously assumes that the primary authority to determine what constitutes a ‘suitable education’ rests with the state when it should rest with parents.

The introduction of ‘Registers’ disguised as mere databases may transform as oppressive tools that dictate personal beliefs, restrict human rights, and interfere with methods how to bring up children. Stripping decision-making authority from parents undermines the core principles of democracy and poses a threat to personal freedoms. The replacement of parental choice with a state-driven ideology that only allows home education under strict regulations and enforcement opens the door to unauthorised intrusion into the private lives of citizens and represents a profound infringement to their legal rights, which not only undermines parental rights and fundamental freedoms but also puts at risk the faith, culture, and cherished traditional way of life of the strictly orthodox Jewish community.

Furthermore, the traditional Jewish education system excels in promoting moral values, community support, and instilling a sense of purpose. With its longstanding history and Torah foundations, it cultivates linguistic proficiency and instils a strong moral compass. Recognising the effectiveness of this system supports diverse educational approaches and upholds fundamental freedoms. Parents have the right to provide religious and moral education to their children without interference from the state, respecting their beliefs and safeguarding religious freedom. The thriving Hasidic communities nationwide and notable career achievements serve as evidence of the system’s effectiveness and therefore constituting a ‘suitable education’. In addition, it would be more beneficial for the government to prioritise addressing pressing issues such as bullying, violence, knife crimes, and other social evils that unfortunately occur frequently in state schools but are extremely rare within the strictly orthodox traditional Jewish education system.

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Asher Gratt
Asher Gratt
Rabbi Gratt was born in Israel in 1954. He established a successful telecoms business and later became principal of the largest Haredi school in the UK. He has written and published educational textbooks which are used to teach Jewish students worldwide in Hebrew, Yiddish, English and French.

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