U-turn on school Hebrew is triumph for lobby groups

The government has dropped plans which some Jewish schools had argued could have stopped Hebrew being taught to primary pupils.

The Department for Education had previously announced that Hebrew would be omitted from a compulsory list of languages to be taught as part of the national curriculum.

Jewish education leaders and community groups strongly objected to the plans, saying that the changes would make it impossible in some cases to accommodate the teaching of Hebrew alongside other languages in their timetables.

Following protests from the National Association for Jewish Orthodox Schools, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council’s Partnership for Jewish Schools and others, the prescribed list has now been scrapped.

The government announced details for the teaching of key stage 2 foreign languages as part of the new national curriculum on Monday.

As part of its eight-month campaign against the changes, the Board of Deputies had contacted every Jewish school in the country.

Education Secretary Michael Gove wrote to Board president Vivian Wineman and acknowledged the community’s concerns.

He said he had decided not to proceed with the proposed list because the move might “narrow the scope of language teaching in primary schools”.

A DfE source said the campaign run by the Board and Najos had “definitely helped influence this decision”.
Board president Vivian Wineman said: “We are delighted that Michael Gove has taken note of the representations we have made on behalf of the Jewish community — that the proposal of a narrow stipulation of compulsory languages would unduly damage our schools’ ability to teach Ivrit.”

Najor founder Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag said he was “delighted”, believing that the decision “matters greatly to the growing number of parents who are choosing Jewish schools”.

At a question and answer session with parents and pupils at Hasmonean High School, in north-west London, on Monday evening, Mr Gove praised the work of Jewish schools including Yavneh College in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, and Manchester’s King David High School.

He suggested Hasmonean could help set up free schools in order to spread its practices elsewhere.
Mr Gove said: “Jewish state schools combine a first-class, first-grade 21st century secular education with a faith education that connects each child to their inheritance and makes them realise that they are the next link in a very precious chain.

“I’m full of admiration for everything that Hasmonean has done. It is a light to the rest of state education.”

Last updated: 7:45pm, July 11 2013