School planning scores poorly in assessment of future requirements

By Marcus Dysch, December 16, 2010

A report into the future of Jewish primary schools has queried the way the community co-ordinates new schools.

In the light of concern about a shortage of places in some areas, the Jewish Leadership Council's School Strategy Implementation Group has been looking at ways to satisfy demand.

At secular schools with a high Jewish pupil population, many parents say they would like their children to attend a Jewish school but do not have one in their area.

There are currently 24 initiatives geared towards creating additional Jewish school places for the next academic year.

However, the group concluded that there was little concerted planning of new schools and this did not serve the community effectively. There was also the issue of Jewish schools which were struggling to fill places.

There are a number of vacant places in north-west London mainstream schools

The group's findings were delivered at the Board of Deputies meeting on Sunday.

Many schools which assisted with the report expressed hopes of expanding or moving to a new site.

Three - North West London Jewish Day School, Rosh Pinah and Kerem - are committed to opening "bulge" classes for reception pupils in 2011, a move expected to have a short-term impact on meeting demand. Yavneh College in Borehamwood hopes to open a primary unit in 2012.

Elsewhere, Jewish primary projects in Haringey and Mill Hill were among the first 16 applicants accepted for free school status and are set to open in September.

Interest has also been expressed by Jewish communities in Hendon, Woodside Park, Golders Green, South Hampstead and south-west London.

Research team leader Sarah Anticoni said: "It is important the community understands the full impact of these new schools opening, and of the government's ability to fill empty places with non-Jewish children, as is currently being done in other areas.

"Although the strictly Orthodox community continues to grow exponentially, there are a number of vacant places in north-west London mainstream schools."

Schools and parents should manage their expectations with "great care".

Last updated: 3:07pm, December 16 2010