Written evidence submitted by GesherEU


Home Education
Call for Evidence


Submission by


Registered UK Charity No 1157062



GesherEU helps individuals living in the UK who have taken the decision to explore living beyond their Ultra-Orthodox (Jewish) community. We are a warm community of like-minded people and offer non-judgmental, confidential support.



We are giving this evidence because of the role that home education and the associated legislation plays in the poor education of many members of the Ultra-orthodox (Charedi) in the UK.


Our Position.

As an organisation we recognise that home education can be a very positive education option when undertaken in the spirit with which this option was intended and with the skills that many parents who choose this option for their children, exhibit.


The misuse of the Home Education provision described below does not apply across the whole of the ultra-orthodox community. It is however extensively employed in the chasidic[1] sects. There are also more widespread concerns such as the very poor primary secular education and the almost total non-existence of tertiary education, but that is not the subject of this consultation.


The Misuse


There are many mainly chasidic sects that wish to educate children (almost always boys) over the age of about 13 in religious studies only. That is, with no secular studies or virtually no secular studies and most often in Yiddish not English.


The institutions in which this study is conducted are called yeshivot (singular yeshiva). They do not register as schools (since they say they do not teach secular subjects), but claim to be religious institutions. The children spend very long hours in these yeshivot - this can often be from 7am until 9pm as the boys get older. If asked, the parents claim to be home educating the children.


The London Borough of Hackney’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Commission in its Investigation into unregistered educational settings (UES) in Hackney (Jan 2018)[2] thought there to be up to 29 UES operating in Hackney and that these were exclusively yeshivas,

offering religious teaching to between 1,000-1,500 boys within the Charedi Orthodox

Jewish community in the borough. There are many yeshivot outside Hackney, with Manchaster and Gateshead being the main concentrations. However there are also a few isolated establishments outside these areas such as in Barnet and Canvey Island (16+). We estimate that in excess of 3,000 chasidic boys could be missing out on their secondary education. The fact that even a single education authority (Hackney) is quoting figures with such a large uncertainty illustrates the need for change and the current lack of monitoring and oversight.


The Hackney report also says that press reports suggest that suspected unregistered educational settings are operating throughout England, with concentrations recorded in both London and the Midlands. It says that it is not clear what proportion of these unregistered settings are faith based, but where a faith based ethos has been identified, 57% were operated by Islamic faith groups, 31% by Jewish faith groups and 12% Christian faith groups

(Independent, 2017). It is probable that the current Home Education Legislation is more widely being exploited to enable young people to languish in unregistered educational settings.


An Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) 2016 report[3] identifies a discrepancy “only possible if a significant proportion of secondary school age strictly Orthodox children are absent from the strictly Orthodox schools appearing in School Census files”. They conclude “... that there are about 1,400 strictly Orthodox children aged 11-15 who are not in strictly Orthodox Jewish schools.” With the most likely explanation being that they are “... in Jewish schools that do not appear in the School Census; or in institutions of Jewish religious learning that are not schools (i.e. yeshivot)”.


The Impact


When they leave their community of birth, our members who have been ‘Home Educated’ and have in fact been put through the yeshiva system:

        Have very poor spoken English.

        Have terrible (if any) written English skills

        Have next to no skills in basic maths

        Have never had a lesson in any of the STEM subjects nor the ‘arts’.

        Have no public qualifications (GCSEs, ‘A’ levels, City & Guilds nor any other Ofqual recognised qualification)

This, together with an education that from an early age is designed to quash critical thinking and questioning skills, conspires to keep the young person in this lifestyle for the rest of their lives. Those who may wish to choose work over life-long religious study lack the qualifications to undertake other than low skilled posts. This results in many remaining trapped in a cycle of poverty and dependence on the state.


One of our members who undertook a Job Centre skills assessment was deemed to have written English and Maths skills barely at a level equivalent to an 11 yrs old. Another father who couldn’t calculate the area of a square and spoke only Yiddish when he left his community, has now, with considerable support, almost finished a degree in computer science with top grades in most modules.






Towards a Solution


Amongst other things, the Hackney report, which is primarily concerned with the lack of safeguarding in these unregistered yeshivot, called for the council to:


a) Lobby for legislative change that legally requires parents to notify their LA if their child is electively home educated;

b) In line with statutory requirements, ensure that all local Independent Schools notify the LA of those children that enter or leave the school register at standard transition points;

c) In line with statutory requirements ensure that all local Independent Schools notify the local authority when a child leaves or is placed on the central school register outside transition points;

d) In line with statutory guidance, raise awareness of the Council’s children missing education procedures and notification processes with local agencies including

schools, GPs, other health professionals (Health Visitors), clinical commissioning

groups, police and other emergency services, housing agencies and voluntary

sector groups;

e) Given the possible numbers of children involved (1,000-1,500) - in Hackney alone (ed), ensure that the Children Missing Education Service is adequately resourced and supported to undertake systematic identification, tracking and enforcement procedures;

f) With improved detection of those children missing education, introduce a more robust policy of administering enforcement notices and School Attendance Orders.


We would like to go further and urge that some level of testing in basic skills such as SATs, be introduced for home schooled children and that much more is done to ensure that time spent in religious institutions is kept to a sensible proportion of their ‘school’ day. Of course these institutions, if they are having children on the premises, must be subject to safeguarding procedures and inspections.


One can be certain that if all that is required is for the children to be registered, that the communities will organise for this to be done on behalf of the parents and the yeshivot will continue to flourish and thousands will remain uneducated.


When developing new legislation to counter this misuse of the home education system, it is important to understand that, for these fudamentalist communities, the independent primary schools, the parents, the yeshivot and the community leaders will all conspire together to exclude or minimise secular education from the children’s educational years. They will use any loophole available and have considerable resources with which to ensure that all parents, head teachers and others are instructed as to what to say, how to fill in forms and documentation to have prepared.


In particular, we see the division of responsibility between the DfE, Ofsted and the Local Authority working to the communities’ advantage.




We regret the burden that fixing this abuse will put on education authorities and parents that have the best of intentions when home educating their children. We hope they will recognise the need to stop the life long blight put upon the innocent children from these communities who miss out on an education, also the limitation it puts on their choices in later life. To this end it is important, as pointed out above, that any additional administrational burden is effective and not just a token gesture. Merely moving to a position when we know accurately how many children are not being educated, is no solution at all.


October 2020

© GesherEU 2020
Page 4 of 4


[1] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasidic_Judaism


[2] https://geshereu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/FINAL-UES-for-PUBLICATION-1-Rpt-App1.pdf


[3] Pages 26-27 The rise and rise of Jewish schools in the United Kingdom:L. Daniel Staetsky and Jonathan Boyd https://www.jpr.org.uk/documents/The_rise_and_rise_of_Jewish_schools_in_the_United_Kingdom.pdf