Finchley free school planning on 2013 opening

Supporters of a new cross-communal Jewish primary in Finchley intend to apply to the Department for Education next month to open it as a free school in 2013.

"We look like we're making good progress," reported Matt Plen, director of the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues and one of the steering group of parents.

Their ambition is to open a reception and year three class (for seven-to-eight-year olds). But they will need to find a prospective site before they can submit an application to the department by the end-of-February deadline.

Mr Plen said "the idea is to combine the model of an open, cross-communal school - which doesn't make judgments about people's background or Jewish involvement - with an intensive attitude to Jewish education".

Introduced by the current government, free schools enjoy more independence than other state-aided schools and so could devote more curriculum time to Jewish studies or Hebrew. But they can reserve only half of their places for pupils from one faith - although other children from the same faith may be able to enter on geographical criteria.

Mr Plen said that most of the 140 parents who had expressed interest in the school were from the locality. Although "a solid group" was from the New North London Masorti Synagogue, the religious complexion was "broader than that".

Verbal support had been expressed by Barnet Council, "because there are a lack of primary places in the borough".

Two Jewish primaries were among the first wave of free schools to open in September - the Orthodox Etz Chaim in Mill Hill and the cross-communal Eden in Haringey. Another Orthodox free school is set to open in Golders Green in September.

However, the rush to open free schools has prompted concern from Susy Stone, head of the Progressive Akiva Primary in Finchley. She has warned that schools could face a squeeze on resources in future, as well as an influx of non-Jewish pupils they are not geared to teach.

But Mr Plen argued that "a lot of parents in this area want to get their children into a cross-communal school but there aren't enough places. If the right kind of school is opened, there will be demand."

Last updated: 1:05pm, January 19 2012