Hackney Council launches consultation on illegal religious schools following BHA campaigning

19 February, 2017

A consultation into illegal religious schools in Hackney has been launched by the council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Commission. The consultation seeks the views of current or former pupils, parents, and teachers of unregistered schools, which are known to predominantly serve the strictly Orthodox Charedi Jewish Community in and around Stamford Hill. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has led the campaign in recent years on illegal religious schools, and continues to work alongside former pupils to ensure that their experiences are brought to the attention of both the authorities and the general public.  

Launching the consultation, which for now takes the form of an online questionnaire, Hackney Council said ‘Following a number of articles in the national media, in the spring and summer of 2016, that questioned the safety, safeguarding and the quality of education provided in allegedly unregistered educational settings (e.g. a Yeshiva) in the borough, the Commission has been conducting an investigation.’ It goes on to say that any responses submitted as part of the consultation will help the Council ‘to gain a better understanding of whether the Council is doing all it can to ensure the quality of education, the safety and the safeguarding of children in unregistered settings in Hackney’.

The BHA was behind much of the news coverage that appeared in 2016 mentioned by the Council. This included an investigation which revealed that one unregistered Charedi school had been allowed to stay open for 40 years despite teaching a ‘culturally and ethnically insular’ curriculum and being well-known to both Ofsted and the DfE, as well as an expose on the BBC’s flagship news programme Newsnight, revealing that a number of illegal schools were officially registered as charities despite the Government being aware that they were operating illegally. In May 2016 the BHA also launched the blogging and whistleblowing platform Faith Schoolers Anonymous, in partnership with former pupils of a variety of different types of school, including unregistered Charedi schools. The website details the experiences of a number of such pupils.

Hackney Council’s consultation is open until 26 March 2017, and can be completed entirely anonymously. The questionnaire can be found through the following link:  https://consultation.hackney.gov.uk/overview-and-scrutiny/unregistered-education/.

BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘While our campaign to ensure that the thousands of children trapped in illegal, unregistered religious schools around the country still has a long way to go, there are signs that the message is finally getting through. We absolutely welcome the launch of this consultation and we hope it is an indication that the authorities are finally prepared to take the action that’s necessary to properly address this problem. The lives of far too many children are at stake for both central and local government to delay action any longer, and we would encourage anyone who has either experience of these schools or information about them to respond in full to Hackney’s consultation.’


For further comment or information please contact the BHA’s Education Campaigner Jay Harman on jay@humanists.uk or 0207 324 3078.

Respond to Hackney Council’s consultation: https://consultation.hackney.gov.uk/overview-and-scrutiny/unregistered-education/

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘BHA exposé: unregistered “faith” schools enjoying charitable status despite operating illegaly’: https://humanists.uk/2016/03/31/bha-expose-unregistered-faith-schools-enjoying-charitable-status-despite-operating-illegally/

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘BHA reveals illegal Jewish school allowed to stay open for years despite repeated Ofsted warnings’: https://humanists.uk/2016/01/15/bha-reveals-illegal-jewish-school-allowed-to-stay-open-for-years-despite-repeated-ofsted-warnings/

Read more about the BHA’s work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanists.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.