By Jeffrey Leader
Since its first publication in 1996 the Pikuach Framework for Inspection has closely mirrored its Ofsted counterpart. There were good reasons for this. Firstly, schools felt comfortable responding to a framework that they were familiar with having been through the Ofsted ‘experience.’ They also felt that an Ofsted model for the inspection of Jewish Religious Education gave the whole process more gravitas.
Just over a year ago the Pikuach team decided to re-evaluate what precisely the country’s only government accredited, Jewish inspection service stood for. We consulted a number of relevant groups including headteachers of Jewish schools, Heads of Jewish Studies and of course our own Pikuach inspectors. The following response from a headteacher describing the old framework was typical:
It becomes apparent very quickly that the Pikuach Framework so closely follows the old Ofsted framework that Pikuach appears to lack an identity or clear separation of its own roles and responsibilities.
In the light of such powerful responses we began to re-shape the approach to Pikuach inspections focussing more on what Judaism means to our pupils; how it relates to their everyday lives. In other words trying to get to the essence of what a school is aiming to achieve through its Jewish Studies programme.
In order to change our focus for inspection it became necessary to completely re-draft the Pikuach Inspection Framework. The new Framework/handbook has just been published and sets out the expectations of Pikuach under Section 48 of the Education (Schools) Act 2005. It provides a process for evaluating the extent to which Jewish schools are distinctively and recognisably Jewish teaching and learning institutions. The process will be used in all future Pikuach inspections.
Jewish schools, unlike their secular counterparts, can vary in their approach to teaching Jewish Studies. Some might place a heavy emphasis upon textual study; some might favour a more experiential approach; while others will teach Judaism as part of an integrated curriculum. This means that Pikuach inspectors can only judge a Jewish school according to its own aims and objectives. Pikuach believes, however, that there are common themes in Jewish education which can be applied to all of the schools it inspects.
We also recognise that a complete move away from the Ofsted model might cause some confusion. Consequently, we have created an inspection template which is modelled partly on the current Ofsted Evaluation Schedule but is more focussed on the distinctively Jewish ethos of schools operating within our expanding day school system.
Hard copies of the Framework/Handbook will shortly be sent to all maintained Jewish day schools and will also be available on-line at Pikuachuk.org
Jeffrey Leader is director of Pikuach