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Part of Rating and Valuation – in the House of Commons at 7:41 pm on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham 7:41 pm, 20th March 2019

These are laudable regulations, and strong arguments have been set out in support of them, but as we have been reminded by a number of speakers, there are concerns among faith groups. I want to touch on those and to pick up in particular the point that my hon. Friend Angela Rayner made about concerns in the orthodox Jewish community.

For 70 years, state-funded Jewish schools have helped to make Britain safe and welcoming for the Jewish community. I understand that over the last eight or nine months, 10 orthodox Jewish schools that were previously rated good or outstanding have been downgraded to “requires improvement” or “inadequate”— a downgrading that threatens their survival—because Ofsted is unhappy with them in the area covered by this guidance. Voices in the community say that if this continues, orthodox Jewish families will either home-school en masse, which they are fully entitled to do, or conclude that the UK is no longer a country where they are welcome. Haredi schools—the fastest growing—will not breach deeply held religious convictions, and they should not have to, because religion or belief is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

With rising antisemitism, which we all know about, state schools where the Jewish faith is observed are more important than ever. Nobody wants orthodox Jewish families to feel that they have to leave the country, but something has to give. I chair the all-party parliamentary group on faith and society, and we want to have a meeting on this issue after Easter. Will the Minister commit to his Department and Ofsted being represented at that?