Balls pledges fresh look at school safety

Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, has promised to revisit the question of how to help Jewish schools meet security costs amid frustration at the lack of tangible support.

Last autumn, the government announced that local councils would be allowed to help with capital expenditure on security, but some councils have said there is no money available.


In a letter to the Community Security Trust this week, Mr Balls — who lunched with CST officials last week — said that his department would take a fresh look if necessary.

“I believe there is enough money in the system for capital investment in security at all schools, including, of course, Jewish schools, and that our funding systems should deliver the capital where it is most needed,” he wrote. “I also believe it is right that decisions on the allocation of this funding should be taken locally.”

But, he added, in view of concerns that had been raised with him, “I am willing to look again at whether there is an issue that still needs to be addressed.”

If the CST could provide examples where the current system was not working, he said he would consider “in the light of such evidence, whether there is indeed a case for a change and whether a different system of central or targeted local funding is needed to ensure that funding is allocated appropriately to this need.”

Welcoming the letter, Mark Gardner, the CST’s communications director said: “Ed Balls is a true friend of our community and we look forward to working with him to ensure that the current obstacles can be overcome as soon as possible.”

In a letter to the JC last month , Mike Freer, leader of Barnet Council in North-West London, which has the largest number of state-aided Jewish schools of any UK borough, complained that council allocations had not been increased to fund school security.

Mr Balls, who spoke at Sunday’s Salute to Israel rally, also used the occasion to record his admiration for Jewish schools. “I know that Jewish schools are often setting a great example to our education system,” he said.

“Indeed, many of our best schools are Jewish schools and we support the history and tradition and contribution which Jewish faith schools make to our education, to our society and the continuation of the Jewish faith into the years to come.”

    Last updated: 10:45am, July 8 2008