Delamere Forest school celebrate relocation

By Jonathan Kalmus, July 1, 2010
Delamere pupils enjoying a day out at the Cheshire Show — other outdoor activities include fishing

Delamere pupils enjoying a day out at the Cheshire Show — other outdoor activities include fishing

It will be the end of an era on Sunday when current and former pupils of Delamere Forest attend a day of celebration at the Cheshire special needs school before its relocation to north Manchester.

One thousand British Jews have been educated at Delamere, which opened in 1920 as the Jewish Fresh Air Home and School for poor inner-city children suffering from malnutrition or asthma caused by smog. But lessening demand for residential schooling and changes in local authority funding had jeopardised Delamere's future.

However, after the sale of its site - an hour's drive from the north Manchester community - the plan is to build a new campus close to the city's Jewish heartland. In the interim, its 17 pupils will be housed in Crumpsall accommodation rented from Langdon College, which is to be refurbished by the start of the academic year. Teaching will transfer to classrooms added to Inscape House School in Salford, which is run by the Together Trust, a major special needs charity.

Governors' chair David Clayton says the plan is cost-effective outsourcing and will bring better Jewish resources for the pupils and a closer relationship with the Jewish community.

"If we hadn't done this we would have closed completely and would have found placements for our pupils in non-Jewish schools. Now Heaton Park Synagogue have offered their help and shul services can also be run at Bnei Akiva. We have got permission from the King David School to use its playing fields. There's also a swimming pool in the Jewish Cultural Centre and we've been in discussions with Maccabi. It's all coming together."

Mr Clayton hopes shorter journey times will attract six extra non-residential students and interest strictly Orthodox families looking for more local options.

But the move will see the departure of Delamere head Harvey Burman, whose role will be assumed by the head of Inscape House. Mr Burman said he would leave with "the knowledge that we have all done our utmost to provide a better future for the children and young people whom we have had the privilege to assist".

Former pupil Uri Koch, who now lives in Israel, says that the move will deprive students of countryside experiences. One of his fondest memories was "eating soup with pine needles falling from trees that we cut down from the forest".

Another ex-pupil, Joshua Simons, 35, remembers Delamere in Harry Potter terms as a kind of Jewish Hogwarts. Now running his own business in London, he said his time at Delamere had been "life-changing". Leaving the site "is a shame from a nostalgic point of view. But moving closer to the Jewish community is the right thing to do."

    Last updated: 12:55pm, July 1 2010