The key findings of the commission
The report states that the opening of JCoSS in 2010 “will provide a configuration of Jewish secondary schools in London that could not be better if it had been planned”. These range across the geographical and religious spectrum. However, “the major cloud on this sunny horizon is numbers”. All five existing secondary schools are confident they will meet their targets for 2008-9, with the September intake up by more than 10 per cent. This, says the report, “would be a remarkable achievement and indicate a step-change in the demand for Jewish secondary education”. The report sets out the case for and against whether the increase can be maintained. Ultimately the commission believes it will not, warning the community to prepare for admitting non-Jews. It recommends commissioning new research “to investigate … the changing attitudes of Jewish parents to Jewish schooling”.
Drastic action is advocated to rescue the situation in Redbridge through a campus solution, with Ilford Jewish Primary School moving in with King Solomon and even adding the Sinclair House community centre to the mix. The commission says Redbridge cannot sustain four forms of entry to its two Jewish primary schools — and five in King Solomon High. Demographic projections show the primary Year 1 pool of children dropping from 160 in 2005-06 to 139 by 2012-13. The pool of secondary first-year candidates will fall from 196 in 2005-06 to 170 by 2012-13. “Doing nothing in Redbridge is only an option if people are sanguine about the Jewish schools enrolling a significant proportion of non-Jewish children in the near future.” It recommends the creation of a Redbridge Community Change Project to implement a programme to strengthen the schools and the community.
Manchester and Leeds
All mainstream schools are facing declining Jewish populations with the exception of Manchester, but the commission has not had the time to study the situation in the depth it would like. However, with the lack of pupils to create a Jewish secondary school in Leeds, the recommendation is for the setting up of a formal relationship with King David Manchester.
The commission calls for regular reports on the supply of Jewish Studies teachers, particularly as the new schools develop. It is also concerned at the number of Jewish Studies teachers who do not have professional teaching qualifications. The report bemoans the lack of a national Jewish Studies curriculum — and while praising UJIA’s investment in the Jewish Curriculum Partnership, detects “a degree of impatience in some quarters with the time the work is taking”.
Funding and finance
Problems Over voluntary contributions to pay for Jewish Studies and security have been highlighted in the JC. The commission takes this forward by recommending research into parental attitudes to identify ways in which the numbers paying can be increased. The commission even looked at abolishing voluntary contributions, instead collecting funds communally. However, there was pessimism at the likelihood of raising the £10 million needed annually. Another idea was for communal organisations which sell assets to invest a percentage in a Jewish Schools Endowment Fund.CHAREDIM
The Commission quotes a 2006 report calling for the 60-70 independent schools in the Charedi community to become part of the maintained (government-funded) sector. However, it recognises the big fear of independent Charedi schools of having to take non-Jews. The commission recommends that the Department for Children, Families and Schools agrees a five-year exemption to the rules on unfilled places for schools moving into the state sector.
A strategic agency to look after Jewish education is unnecessary, not least because of the difficulty in bringing together the many existing organisations. The commission suggests the creation of the Schools Strategy Implementation Group, to be chaired by property entrepreneur Leo Noé. This will consider all the recommendations of the commission and bring those approved to fruition. It is envisioned that the group will exist for no more than three years.