Birmingham Jewish studies funding slashed

By Jessica Elgot, June 10, 2010
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Birmingham's King David Prim-ary has had its Jewish studies budget slashed.

Funding from Birmingham Hebrew Congregation has been cut from £20,000 to £12,000 annually. Birmingham Jewish Education Board has ended its varying contribution, most recently £3,000.

The voluntary-aided school now has only 65 Jewish children out of a roll of 245. More than half the pupils are Muslim.

Headteacher Steve Langford said the cuts had come at a bad time. "It is going to be tough, with costs rising."

He believed the cuts were linked to a dwindling Jewish pupil population, but maintained: "We have worked so hard to build a renewed Jewish ethos at the school over the past three years and the efforts are clearly showing."

Governors' chair Dr Michael Wolffe felt the reduced funding was not the result of low Jewish pupil numbers. "We have always had a mixed school. It is not as if there has been a sudden decline in Jewish students. We are a harmonious example of mixed faiths, an example to the outside world.

"We are so proud of the work done to improve the Jewish studies at the school. It really has become the jewel in the crown of the community."

The reduced funding means that Jewish pupils from different years will take Jewish studies together and the full-time Jewish studies teacher will now take other subjects on one day a week.

Mr Langford hopes that fresh funding will come "through contributions from alumni. This is the time for the Birmingham Jewish community to stand up and be counted and to say that this school is important to them."

The city's Central Synagogue still contributes £3,900 towards Jewish studies and shul president Geoffrey Clements said this would continue. The school was "an incredibly important cause. It is a great asset to the community and if we could give more, then we would."

In a statement, education board chair Arthur Gremson said it could no longer afford to give financial support. "Since 2005 the BJEB has contributed over £20,000 to the school. The decision to stop the contribution was not taken lightly. It is our hope that the school will continue its good work."

Birmingham Hebrew Congregation leaders were unavailable for comment.

    Last updated: 1:39pm, June 10 2010