Dinah Rose QC wins Jewish schoolboy appeal

A Jewish school that refused entry to a boy on the grounds that his mother was not recognised as Jewish by the Office of the Chief Rabbi has been told to reverse its stance by the Court of Appeal.

A Jewish school that refused entry to a boy on the grounds that his mother was not recognised as Jewish by the Office of the Chief Rabbi has been told to reverse its stance by the Court of Appeal.

Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC represented E, the father of a 12-year-old boy known as M, in his attempt to have his son admitted to the Brent-based JFS school.

The school rejected E’s admission because his mother’s conversion to Judaism was not recognised by the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks.

The judgment is expected to have far-reaching implications for other Jewish schools who accept students on the basis of their ethnic origins regardless of whether they practise the faith.

The Court of Appeal panel of three included Lord Justice Sedley, Lady Justice Smith and Lord Justice Rimer. It ruled:  “The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or by conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act 1976. If the discrimination is direct, as we consider it is, it cannot be justified.”

It added: “No faith school is immune from the prohibition on race discrimination.”

Bindmans partner John Halford, who instructed Rose, said: “We have never sought to interfere with the right of orthodox Jews to define for their own religious purposes whom they do or do not recognise as Jewish.

“However, it is unlawful for a child’s ethnic origins to be used as the criterion for entry to a school. Such a practice is even more unacceptable in the case of a comprehensive school funded by the taxpayer.”

While the school has contravened the Race Relations Act, the ruling will not necessarily mean that it must allow M to start school in September. This decision is thought to be at the discretion of the school governors.

Stone King Sewell partner Richard Gold instructed 11KBW’s Peter Oldham to represent the governing body of JFS and the admissions panel.

Treasury Solicitor Natalie Cohen instructed Matrix Chambers’ Tom Lindon QC for the Secretary of State for Education. Clive Lewis QC of 11KBW was also instructed by the Treasury Solicitor to act for the Office of the Schools Adjudicator. Both Lewis and Lindon represented interested parties.

Farrer & Co partner Anne-Marie Piper instructed David Pannick QC of Blackstone Chambers to act for intervener the United Synagogue.

Also acting as an intervener on behalf of the British Humanist Association was Matrix Chambers’ David Wolfe instructed by Leigh Day & Co partner Richard Stein.