The Department of Education (DoE) has been accused of “covering up” evidence that over a thousands pupils, unaccounted for in mainstream education, were actually being educated at illegal Jewish faith establishments in London.
Physical violence and sexual abuse of children is alleged to have taken place inside the premises.
The pupils had been moved to illegal Jewish schools operating in the London borough of Hackney and the evidence destroyed, according to an investigation by The Independent:
The Department for Education has been aware of the problem since 2010 but does not appear to have taken any steps to act against the destruction of these records.
An investigation by The Independent also found that more than 1,000 children are missing from schools in London and are at risk of abuse in illegal faith schools. The schools are ultra-Orthodox Jewish faith schools at which boys are placed from the age of 13, and where they receive no education beyond studying religious texts. A number of pupils leave school with little or no ability to speak English, and few – if any – qualifications or skills which equip them to work, or live independently.
Former pupils, campaigners and whistleblowers say that the schools have been operating in plain sight without government action for more than 40 years, despite the fact that running a non-registered school is a criminal offence, and physical violence and sexual abuse of children is alleged to have taken place inside the schools.
A redacted ‘Action of Note’ of a meeting between representatives from the Department for Education and Hackney Learning Trust reveals that both bodies have been aware of the issue for at least six years. Hackney Learning Trust is a private company in Hackney Council’s Children and Young People’s Service, which describes itself as having responsibility for the council’s “entire education function”. At a meeting in May 2010, the issue of ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools operating illegally in Hackney was raised. The Trust’s own ‘Action of Note’ of the meeting record authorities admitting at this meeting that they destroyed evidence of the abuse at the request of Jewish schools.
In the meeting, Trust representatives discussed that in an attempt to track the whereabouts of Jewish children when they go missing from education records, they had asked legal Jewish state schools to inform them when a child was taken away by their parents to attend an illegal one instead. A Trust representative says that although they were initially able to receive evidence tracking the missing children in this way which could have enabled them to act and protect children, some of the schools threatened legal action against the Trust and that they subsequently backed down and agreed to destroy all evidence it collected on the issue.
The ‘Action of Note’ records that a senior Department for Education staff member was present at the meeting and had agreed to inform the Department of all that was discussed. However, despite this, it appears that the Department of Education did not raise any objections to Hackney Learning Trust destroying evidence of children being placed in illegal schools, nor did they take any steps to intervene or act against the destruction of these records.
Furthermore, The Independent can also reveal data analysis of the Government’s own records which show that more than 1,000 Jewish boys are currently missing from the education system in the London Borough of Hackney, and that thousands more have disappeared over the course of decades.
Campaigners and whistleblowers say that the Department of Education and Hackney Council have both refused to take these concerns seriously for decades, resulting in thousands of lost children over generations.
Former pupils, whistleblowers and campaigners have told The Independent that the boys, who belong to ultra-Orthodox Jewish families, are taken out of the schooling system by the age of 13. After this age, they attend extremely strict faith schools where lessons are conducted in Yiddish, speaking English is banned, physical beating occurs and children are encouraged to enter arranged marriages upon turning 18.
Data analysis by the British Humanist Association (BHA) reveals that the Government’s own records show that thousands of Jewish boys drop off records of registered school children. Currently, more than 1,100 children are missing from these records in London.
Campaigners say that the boys often start off in legal, state primary schools along with their sisters.
However, their religious beliefs are that boys should dedicate their lives to intense study of religious texts exclusively once they reach their Bar Mitzvah age of around 13. Daughters are not expected to undergo the same education because it is not seen as theologically important for women to have a deep understanding of religious texts when their primary role is looking after their families and the home, and so girls largely remain in legal, state schools.