The Pikuach Framework for Inspection is undergoing a long awaited change. Previous frameworks have always mirrored their Ofsted counterparts and have consequently focused on Achievement, Teaching Quality, Curriculum, Leadership and Management and the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development of pupils. Although this format has served us well over the years and was favoured by schools it has no Jewish ideological basis.
A brief examination of the Anglican and Methodist Inspection Framework will highlight the issue.
The introduction to the above states:
Consequently, we are planning to introduce a new Pikuach Framework for Inspection that has a strong Jewish foundation and seeks to explore not only what our children know about Judaism in terms of knowledge, skills and understanding but also how they relate to and think about Judaism in terms of its relevance to their everyday lives and experience.
One of the problems faced by Pikuach is that unlike its secular counterpart our inspectors have no agreed standards against which to judge achievement and progress in Jewish Studies. We have always inspected according to each school’s aims and objectives. One school, for example, might focus its teaching on developing children’s textual skills which could include the ability to read, translate and understand biblical text in Hebrew. Another school might focus more on the experiential in order to develop within its children a ‘Jewish heart’ and a strong Jewish identity.
While respecting the right of a Jewish school to choose its own developmental focus, we at Pikuach believe that all Jewish schools regardless of their religious affiliation must surely incorporate into their teaching and learning shared values and practices.
As a starting point for developing a new Pikuach Framework rooted in Judaism and Jewish belief we sought the advice of Lord Sacks. We asked him what he felt all Jewish schools, regardless of their religious affiliation, should be teaching. He feels that Jewish schools should:
First and foremost convey a Jewish ethos, whether it be in the relation of teachers to pupils, pupils to teachers, pupils to one another, and to non-Jews if there are non-Jews in the school, as well as toward the outside world. The ethos should be one of tzedek, mishpat, chessed ve-rachamim. That is: integrity and respect, justice and a sense of reverence toward the laws and rules of the school, kindness especially to the sensitive and vulnerable, compassion and forgiveness. It should promote an active sense of citizenship and regard for the common good. If these are all present, the school is a Kiddush Hashem and so will its pupils be. If not, then it will be a Chillul Hashem, and nothing is worse than that. So the school should not only teach Judaism. It must live Judaism."
He maintains that:
We are a textual culture, a “people of the book.” Therefore the school should teach basic Jewish literacy and should constantly set its sights a little higher each time. Standards will vary from school to school, but they are at the moment far too low in most of our mainstream schools. An educated Jew should be at home in our texts.
There should be a pervading sense of Jewish spirituality, though there are many ways of doing this: through the arts, drama, music, through the way tefillah is conducted, and so on. It should provide opportunities for the pupils to demonstrate creativity and/or leadership, always if possible with a clear Judaic resonance."
We hope to weave these thoughts into our new Framework for Inspection.