Former Ofsted head parachuted in to Jewish school at centre of sexual misconduct controversy

The former head of Ofsted has been named as the interim leader of a renowned Jewish school following student complaints about safeguarding.

It has now emerged that Rachel Fink, the headteacher, quietly stepped down on May 31 after leading the school for three years.

JFS, in North London, and Europe’s largest Jewish secondary school, was recently subject to an Ofsted inspection which concluded at the beginning of the month. 

Sir Michael Wilshaw, former chief inspector of schools in England, who led Ofsted from 2012 to 2016, had now agreed to be interim executive principal until the end of the term, the school said in a letter to parents.

The former Ofsted chief was recently advising Pimlico Academy, a London secondary which was the centre of race discrimination allegations. 

Commenting on Ms Fink’s departure, Andrew Moss, chair of governors, wrote to parents: “We acknowledge the service Mrs Fink has given to the school and the enormity of the challenges presented during the course of the Covid pandemic.”

“We appreciate that changes of this nature cause concern,” he said, adding that parents and carers would be able to meet Sir Michael and Dame Joan McVittie, a former London headteacher, safeguarding expert, and a senior Ofsted inspector, who would be supporting him.

Sir Michael Wilshaw was recently drafted in to advise the headteacher at Pimlico Academy after students at the school protested over alleged racial discrimination

Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

It comes after the school was rocked by allegations of peer-on-peer sexual misconduct earlier this year when testimonies of pupils appeared on the website Everyone’s Invited. 

Tens of thousands of testimonies from schools across the UK appeared on the site in the wake of the disappearance of Sarah Everard.

“I was in the lunch queue and he put his hand up my skirt and groped me [and] no one said anything,” one account allegedly about JFS read. Another said it was “normal for boys of any age to grope girls”.

At the time, Ms Fink wrote to parents that the testimonies made for “disturbing” reading. 

“There are those who might suggest that it is impossible to verify the truth of these allegations, or that the naming of different schools and universities is inconsistent,” she wrote.

“Others will argue that when you read the testimonies it is clear that most of them reference incidents that take place out of school, at parties and on the weekend; that they are nothing to do with school.”

She added: “My view, both as an educator and as a woman, is that we have a responsibility to have an open and honest discussion and once again partner with students and parents to really understand what is taking place in our community, a microcosm of society, and how do we collectively create change.

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“I have reviewed all the JFS testimonies and we have shared them with the authorities to seek advice as to what further steps we should take to investigate – the challenge is of course the anonymity.”

Sir Michael addressed students at JFS in an assembly on Monday. 

One student told Jewish News he did not introduce himself as the new headteacher but “warned that he doesn’t stand for bad behaviour and that was here to help the school”.

Another student told the website: “While Ofsted was in it spoke to some of the older students about issues around sex abuse and safeguarding. The feeling in the school is that the inspection will be quite negative so I guess that is the main reason for the big change.”

JFS was approached for comment. 

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