Don't give up hope on school places

Anxious parents whose children have failed to gain a place at Jewish secondary school have been advised not to give up hope as more places will become free in coming weeks.

Despite the rapid increase in Jewish secondary school places in London, a number of children were left without one after last week's first round of offers.

Several of the capital's five mainstream state-aided Jewish secondaries reported that applications were up from last year.

JFS said applications had risen from around 650 to just under 700 for its 300 places. The cross-communal JCoSS reported a rise from 450 to 600 for 180 places and Yavneh College attracted 500 applicants for 150 places, compared with 425 last year.

There is a larger pool of eligible children

But Yavneh chairman Sue Nyman said: "If you haven't got your first choice school, or a Jewish school at all, hang in there because it will be sorted out in the next round of offers."

The number of mainstream places at state-aided Jewish comprehensives has increased by more than half in a decade, from 600 to 930, with the opening of Yavneh in 2006 and JCoSS last year.

This year's overall rise in applications is partly attributable to parents putting several Jewish schools down on entry forms. Schools believe that there is also a larger pool of eligible children.

JFS chair Michael Glass said: "There is an urban myth about a millennium bulge - I don't know if that's true!"

He explained that one reason children have been left waiting for a place is that the school is allowed only to make an initial 300 offers.

"A few years ago, we could offer more places on the expectation that a certain percentage would not accept."

Jewish schools are waiting to see how many of their first-round offers will be rejected - from children going to independent schools or those who want a different Jewish school from the one allocated by their local authority.

JFS will make its next round of offers on March 22. "By the end of the second round, we will have a much better idea of what goes on," Mr Glass said.

Neither JFS nor Yavneh had to hold appeal tribunals last year as there were enough places to go round eventually.

But there still appear to be vagaries in the system. Mrs Nyman has "heard of children who put down a Jewish school as their first choice - and they have been given a Catholic school".

    Last updated: 1:53pm, March 14 2011