Parents ‘won’t pay’ to support Jewish studies

Too many parents are refusing to contribute to the cost of their children’s religious education, say governors in some Jewish day schools.

Although state-aided Jewish schools are mainly government-funded, it is common for them to request around £1,000 per child from parents annually to cover Jewish studies and security.

But Lee Glassar, a governor at the Michael Sobell Sinai Primary School in Kenton, North-West London, said “a significant number” decline to pay.

“It is unfortunate that people who want their children to have a Jewish education don’t feel it appropriate to pay for it,” he said.

State schools are legally allowed to ask families for contributions as long as it is clear that they are voluntary, and that no link is made between offering children places and parents’ willingness to pay them.

Mr Glassar said the school recognised that some parents could not afford to make the donations, adding: “If they come and talk to us, we are very open and sympathetic. There are people who don’t have the means to pay and we don’t have the right to deprive those children of a Jewish education.

“There are people who do not communicate with the school, who, we understand, have the means to pay but do not feel it appropriate to do so.”

Although he would not disclose the percentage of non-payers, he said it was at “an unacceptable level. We are going to have to go outside the school and to raise money to bridge the gap”.

Howard Kemp, chairman of governors of Ilford Jewish Primary School, said: “We are fighting with our hands tied behind our back because there is no sanction we can impose.”

Some parents chose not to make payments, despite giving the impression of being able to afford to: “You have an idea of their lifestyle — the cars they drive, the leisure clubs they belong to, the season tickets they hold.”

In Manchester, where Bury and Whitefield Jewish Primary School seeks contributions of £365 a term, Rabbi Avraham Jaffe, chairman of governors, said: “We do not press parents. But we do have a problem with people we feel could afford to pay but don’t. You ring up and ask them to pay at least something. But they say ‘it’s voluntary and we make our own choice.’”

Governors from several schools discussed what they could do to increase contributions at a meeting of the Agency for Jewish Education in London earlier this year.

“There are schools that get 75 per cent [of parents to pay] and there are schools that get less than 50 per cent,” said chief executive Simon Goulden.

“The cost of Jewish studies and security is not going down. If the government would fund security, that would be enormously helpful.”

Ian Shaw, who chairs the finance committee of Hertsmere Jewish Primary School in Hertfordshire, said: “Next year will be challenging economically. I would hope that parents see the value of what they receive from the school. They need to know that unless they contribute, the services will suffer.”

    Last updated: 4:27pm, June 27 2008