Department for Education (DfE) officials in the United Kingdom are under investigation, after it was revealed that documents which allegedly contained evidence about Jewish boys being sent to illegal religious schools were destroyed, according to The Independent.
The report claims that officials shredded documents which contained records of haredi boys leaving mainstream education in the London Borough of Hackney, and that the boys attending “illegal faith schools” are allegedly experiencing physical abuse, 14-hour school days and substandard education.
Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said there was no “serious evidence of mistreatment of children,” and speculated whether the schools were tacitly tolerated because there was no room for the pupils in mainstream schools.
Since 2008 it has been illegal under UK law to run an unregistered school. Jewish community leaders have called for the schools to “get legal."
“Nothing is more important than keeping children safe. Local authorities must take immediate action to establish the identities of children missing from school to ensure they are safe and receiving a good education,” said a DfE spokesperson.
“We are taking steps to strengthen our guidance to schools on safeguarding, and subject to outcomes of a recent consultation, we plan to change regulations so that schools have a duty to inform local authorities in all circumstances where a pupil is removed from a school register.”
The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), an education watchdog, has set up a task force of “eight experienced inspectors” who “receive support and intelligence from regional teams” across the country to address the problem.
“We believe there are more unregistered school operating than originally thought by the DfE and local authorities,” said an Ofsted spokesperson, stressing that the organization believed unregistered schools were a problem that needed to be addressed.
“Ofsted takes the safety of young people very seriously and has worked hard to raise the profile of unregistered schools as a serious issue. We will continue our work to ensure all children are properly safeguarded and receive a broad and balanced education.”