Survey: Demand for schools has peaked

Education and youth

By Simon Rocker, January 30, 2014

Jewish schools may have dramatically increased in number and intake, with almost 30,000 pupils now compared to 12,500 in the 70s.

But their popularity may have begun to peak, at least among the broader middle-of-the-road or non-Orthodox public, the survey suggests.

One in three – 30 per cent – of UK Jews have attended a Jewish school at some point, almost half of the number who have attended a cheder.

But there are sharp differences among the age groups. Over half of those in their 20s went to a primary or secondary Jewish school (51 per cent), more than double of those who did so in their 50s (23 per cent).

However, according to the report, “although more and more people are sending their children to Jewish schools, on average this rate of increase is shrinking year on year”.

The take-up of Jewish school places is near universal among the observant Orthodox and Charedim.

By contrast, two-thirds of “traditional” parents who have children of school age have at least one in a Jewish school, compared to just over a quarter – 27 per cent – of Progressives and merely 10 per cent of “secular” Jews.

Parental income is also an important factor. “Jewish schools are most popular among middle-income families, but as household incomes rise (above £110,000 per year), Jewish schools are increasingly less likely to be chosen,” the report says.

The trend “strongly suggests that Jewish parents are choosing non-Jewish private schools when they can afford to do so”.

More than three-quarters of those sampled believe that Jewish schools strengthen identity and 61 per cent believe they increase resistance to intermarriage.

But there are more mixed feelings about whether non-Jewish schools are better at preparing children for wider British society: forty-two per cent think they do, while 23 per cent disagree, with the rest unsure. Parents are almost equally divided over whether Jewish schools are better at instilling moral values than non-Jewish schools.

Almost half of the sample backed public funding for Jewish schools (47 per cent) with just over a quarter against (26 per cent).

Three out of every five UK Jews have had a bar- or batmitzvah ceremony (84 per cent of boys and 38 per cent of girls).

More than half — 56 per cent — regularly attended a Jewish youth group; 31 per cent went to Israel with their youth group; 13 per cent have been to yeshivah or seminary (mostly in Israel); and 10 per cent went on gap year to Israel.

More than one in five — 22 per cent — have a GCSE or A-level in Jewish studies or Hebrew.


Unless birthrates among the non-Orthodox rise or a larger proportion of traditional, Progressive or secular parents opt for Jewish schooling, some schools could find it harder to fill their places in years to come.

The lure of leading independent non-Jewish day schools is still proving irresistible for many wealthier families.

While most parents expect Jewish schools to have some positive Jewish impact, the report does not yet tell us whether schools actually do – for example, in terms of synagogue involvement or ending up with a Jewish partner.

Last updated: 1:26pm, January 30 2014