School broke rules with overcrowded classes
The principal of a strictly Orthodox school in Stamford Hill, north London, this week highlighted the chronic shortage of space facing teachers and pupils in the area.
Rabbi Avraham Pinter, who heads Yesodey Hatorah girls school, said: “There is a major problem. The infrastructure for schools in Stamford Hill is not coping with the growing community. It’s something that the local council needs to address.”
His remarks came after a court heard that the Bnois Jerusalem Girls School flouted planning rules and sparked complaints from neighbours by using a terraced house as a “cramped” classroom for 120 students.
The three-storey house in Amhurst Park, Stamford Hill, was licensed only for use as a private residence. But for five years, the school carried on lessons in cramped and inappropriate conditions.
The firm that owns the building — Amhurst Park Holdings Limited — was fined £6,000 after bosses admitted breaches of planning notices served by Hackney Council in 2011.
Snaresbrook Crown Court heard the company had allowed the school to use the property rent-free.
Judge Stephen Dawson QC said: “The school is one that teaches young Orthodox Jewish girls and it is associated with this complaint.
“It has more pupils than it can hold and it has spilled over into the house next door. The upper two floors do not have planning permission to be a school and the complaints go back a long way to 2006.
“To be fair to the defendants, the enforcement notice does only go back to 2011 while informal negotiations went on between the council and Amhurst Park Holdings.
“These premises have a long history but it looks as if a person named Hershal Grumhut came from Vienna many years ago and developed the school and acquired more property in order to help with the development of the community.
“They are not complying with the rules however and though planning can be a nuisance, if we did not have planning rules we would have mayhem.”
Judge Dawson added: “Though I can see the reason for breaching the enforcement notice, all schools must make compromises. I am sympathetic to the fact this is a school and not profiteering going on here.”
In addition to the financial penalty, Amhurst Park Holdings will have to pay £2,725 in court costs.
The voluntary-aided school caters for girls between the ages of three and 16 and caters to up to 628 pupils.
Amhurst Park Holdings Ltd director Akiva Grumhut pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to three counts of failing to comply with an enforcement notice.
Speaking to the JC, Rabbi Pinter sympathised with the plight of the Bnois Jerusalem school. He said: “The intake in the community grows by 50 children every year — that’s two new classes.
“In our own junior girls school we are under tremendous space pressure. We have capacity for 60 and our latest entry was 78. One of the solutions in the long term is for the community to branch out. People are already moving to Tottenham, to Clapton.”