Glasgow Jewish future in doubt say Calderwood Lodge school parents

By Jennifer Lipman, September 20, 2012
Hands up: two-thirds of Calderwood Lodge pupils are Jewish, but parents are complaining about the school

Hands up: two-thirds of Calderwood Lodge pupils are Jewish, but parents are complaining about the school

Parents of pupils at Scotland's only Jewish school have warned of a decline in its religious education and expressed concern for the future of Glasgow's Jewish community.

Calderwood Lodge, a state-aided primary and nursery, is open to both Jewish and non-Jewish pupils, and it is estimated that up to two-thirds are Jewish. Without any Orthodox cheder in Scotland, the school is a mainstay of Jewish communal life.

In late 2010 responsibility for Jewish education was transferred from the private charity Calderwood Jewish Education to East Renfrewshire Council. The transfer arrangement included provision for an independent advisory body to monitor Jewish education and maintain a link with the community. This has now been disbanded, although even before this, parents accused the local authority of failing to adhere to minutes, dismissing concerns and refusing to allow members any say in the agenda of meetings.

"There is now no facility for the Jewish parents to have any kind of influence over what is considered Jewish," complained one parent, who said there was a lack of understanding about the school's Jewish traditions among the new management.

Parents have now raised concerns that the number of Jewish studies classes has been cut by 25 per cent and that they are no longer included in events such as the kabbalat Shabbat assemblies, so are unable to see what their children are being taught.

Last Purim coincided with the fundraising charity event Red Nose Day, and parents have complained that the focus was given to the latter, with Purim a "sideshow".

One mother said: "There used to be a Jewish studies department and kids would go into the specific classroom that belonged to the Jewish studies teachers. Now the rooms have gone and there's this general dilution.

"The Jewish teachers are disappearing," she added. Her worry was that rather than hiring Jewish teachers, class teachers will be trained to teach Judaism as they would any other subject. "Kodesh cannot be taught in the same integrated manner as maths and English," said another parent.

He blamed the slipping standards for the early departure of several Jewish children from the school. "It just isn't happening there," said one parent, who has been giving her children private Jewish education for the last few years. "We absolutely shouldn't have to, but we felt we had to."

She felt that Jewish parents would be less inclined to send their children to Calderwood Lodge "now that it's not what it was.

"Glasgow was an option for young families because of Calderwood. This will make Glasgow less viable," she said. "There are less Jewish kids being born in this city, so it's a natural evolution, but I feel it's been hastened. I'm accepting of all other religions, but I don't want that to be at the expense of my kids' education."

One parent declared: "There is no way that the Catholic Church would allow this to happen and there is no way any education department would turn round to a Catholic school and say you do not have any control over your curriculum, the way your religion is taught or who teaches it. Yet this is what has happened to us."

A spokesman for East Renfrewshire Council said: "Whilst providing the very highest of standards across all our denominational and non-denominational schools, we support inclusion at all times and work hard to enable children from all religious backgrounds to participate in our schools, according to their parents' wishes".

"Jewish culture is at the very heart of the ethos of the school," she said, pointing to the daily observance of Jewish prayers and trips to Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam. "Calderwood is the only school where children learn Ivrit, have kodesh in school hours and where Jewish holidays are observed and celebrated."

Last updated: 10:24am, September 21 2012