Frank admissions of the Hertsmere Primary head
Welcome hand-outs: Steven Isaacs has introduced the head’s tea party
Leading a Jewish primary school where demand for places way outstrips supply, Hertsmere JPS head Steven Isaacs has some words of comfort for parents facing disappointment in the admissions process.
Mr Isaacs - who took charge in September - advises: "Don't put all your eggs in one basket and apply to other schools as well. Even if it is not at HJPS, the likelihood is that that the child ends up happy in the school they go to."
The Radlett school's 60 nursery places for the next academic year are more than 100 per cent over-subscribed. As a father of three young children, he appreciates how stressful the admissions process can be for parents.
An admissions evening for 2012 had been brought forward from its usual autumn date "because anxious parents have already started making inquiries". The aim was to explain how the admissions process worked and the criteria used.
He is aware that "people who live in Bushey say it's easier to get your child in if you live in Borehamwood or Radlett. People who live in Borehamwood say it's easier if you live in Bushey. We devise our policy to be as fair as possible and it is reviewed every year in accordance with Herts County Council guidelines."
Two new Jewish schools are planned in the Hertfordshire area - a preparatory section at Bushey's independent Immanuel College opening in September and a voluntary-aided primary at Yavneh College scheduled to launch the following year. Yet with the rapid growth of young families in the area, Mr Isaacs does not envision a drop in demand for places.
However, although insisting that he did not consider the new schools as rivals, he acknowledged that "with more choice available, we will have to work harder to promote the benefits of our school in order to encourage parents to apply here".
In his first nine months at HJPS, Mr Isaacs has worked to consolidate some of the innovations introduced by his predecessor Michele Bazak but is putting his own stamp on things.
Described as "passionate and enthusiastic" - one of the reasons why he was appointed, says Elliot Cohen, the governor with particular responsibility for admissions - Mr Isaacs warmly welcomes all visitors.
A staunch believer in engagement with the community, he encourages parents to involve themselves with their children's school lives. "We have a coffee morning for them once a term, and they are invited to drop in on their children's lessons, so that they can see exactly what their child is doing. They love it."
For the pupils, Mr Isaacs has introduced and hosts the immensely popular weekly headteacher's tea party, when one child from each class is invited to celebrate a particular success, whether an academic achievement or outstandingly good behaviour. Over juice and chocolate brownies, guests chat to the head about school life and each is is presented with an award.
Looking forward, a key ambition is to see the school achieve specialist status for music and performing arts, in which Mr Isaacs holds a degree - he also taught at the British School in the Philippines before going into Jewish education. "I hope to do this via the basic curriculum, but be assured, it will never be at the expense of our high standards in literacy, numeracy and other fields."
More immediate will be the installation during the summer holidays of an adventure playground, funded with the help of an "incredible" donation from the parents/staff association.