Anger after Stamford Hill ‘school bans women drivers’

NIcky Morgan

NIcky Morgan - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A probe has been launched into a letter sent by British leaders of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect declaring that women should not be allowed to drive.

The Department for Education has confirmed it is looking into the letter, in which rabbis of the Belz community in Stamford Hill’s Chasidic neighbourhood, said having female drivers was “contrary” to the religious modesty in the group.

It added that from mid-August, children would be excluded from their schools if their mothers drove them there.

The group runs two Stamford Hill schools – Talmud Torah Machzikei Hadass, a boys’ primary school, and Beis Malka, a primary school for girls – which have both been rated “good” by Ofsted.

Education secretary and minister for women and equalities, Nicky Morgan said: “This is completely unacceptable in modern Britain. If schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people they are breaching the independent school standards.

“Where we are made aware of such breaches we will investigate and take any necessary action to address the situation.”

The letter was signed by leaders from Belz educational institutions and endorsed by the group’s rabbis.

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But Ahron Klein, chief executive of the schools, said: “The headteacher sent out the letter on behalf of the spiritual heads of the community who had not taken into account the implications of such a policy.

“Neshei Belz, which is our women’s organisation, also issued a statement saying that

our values may be compromised in driving a vehicle although they added that they respect individual choices made in this matter.

“However, the message that children will be excluded has not come from the school’s board of Governors who did not approve the letter in advance.

“The school believes that women have a choice about whether they want to drive or not, and our policy is to accept all children who are members of our community, which we have been doing for the last 40 years.”

He added: “Our main focus is the success of our children and this will always remain the case.”