Primary chair 'forced out over JCoSS'

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009

The chairman of Simon Marks Jewish Primary in Hackney has been forced to step down because, he claims, of his support for linking it with the new cross-communal Jewish Community Secondary School.

Simon Marks’s foundation body, the Scopus Jewish Educational Trust, has confirmed its decision not to reappoint Peter Kessler as a foundation governor after his three-year term expired.

He attributed the trust’s action to his backing for making Simon Marks a feeder for JCoSS, which is due to open in East Barnet next September.

Mr Kessler, who had been a governor for three years, two as chairman, said: “I regret the way Scopus elected to bring this particular disagreement to an end, but that is their right.”

If Simon Marks were to be accepted as a feeder, its pupils would gain by moving up the priority list for JCoSS entry, he explained. Otherwise, pupils from schools nearer to JCoSS might secure places ahead of those from Simon Marks.

“We have an enormous number of families who are in tune with what JCoSS is doing,” he said.

Mr Kessler claimed that a majority of governors backed the feeder plan and had been due to meet to approve it. The meeting had been cancelled when “we discovered there was no need for us to give our permission”, since the decision lay entirely with JCoSS.

“JCoSS unfortunately has been told by Barnet [Council] that it is not allowed to enter new feeder schools on to its list until it has been open for two years,” he said.

Scopus chairman Peter Ohrenstein would give no reason for its decision, explaining that foundation bodies had “unfettered discretion” over the appointment of foundation governors.

He would also not be drawn on the Scopus position on the idea of Simon Marks becoming a feeder for JCoSS. “It is not something my colleagues and I have thought about because the situation has not arisen,” he said.

Scopus schools were modern Orthodox in ethos and “subject to the religious authority of the Chief Rabbi”, Mr Ohrenstein added.

But Mr Kessler, stressing that the Simon Marks intake included Jews from all walks of life, said: “The unique and wonderful thing about Simon Marks is that it is a melting-pot where you see the movement in Jewish society towards cross-communal integration.”

Making the school a feeder for JCoSS would be beneficial, he argued, because it would encourage more parents to send their children to Simon Marks.

Last updated: 1:52pm, September 10 2009