Demand for JCoSS 'exceeds expectations'

The new Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) is on course for a full first-year intake when it opens in East Barnet in September after receiving well over two applications for every place.

Mike Grabiner, chairman of the cross-communal school, said the number "exceeded all our expectations" and showed "a very significant demand… which can only grow as we establish ourselves".

JCoSS had 453 applicants for 180 places but like other Jewish schools, it will have to wait many weeks before knowing how many pupils are likely to start in autumn.

Some children offered places there may instead take up places at independent schools or switch to other state-aided Jewish schools if vacancies arise.

Overall, there are a record 780 first-year places available at the five state-aided Jewish secondary schools in the London area. Although all are oversubscribed on paper, they will not be able to gauge the true level of demand until they know how many initial offers have been accepted by Monday week's deadline - and how many children remain on the waiting list.

JCoSS head teacher Jeremy Stowe-Lindner said: "Typically, there is further movement between schools over the next few months, especially to the private sector, so it is still worth joining our waiting list. I hope that we will be able to accommodate many of those who want a place."

Yavneh College in Borehamwood reported around 500 applications for 150 places and King Solomon High in Redbridge 240 for 150 places. Hasmonean High has received 220 for 150 places, although it hopes eventually to find room for closer to 170.

JFS was also heavily oversubscribed again this year with 652 applicants for 300 places.

The numbers of applicants suggest that parents have not been deterred by the new admission procedures introduced after the JFS court case.

In the past, schools could simply give preference to children with Jewish parents. As a result of the court decision, they have had to introduce tests of religious practice, leading to fears that prospective pupils from less observant homes might be discouraged.

New JFS chairman Michael Glass said that in practice, the new system had been "much less problematic than we anticipated. It hasn't appeared to have made any major impact. I think parents have adapted very quickly."

He believed it had helped parents that JFS, King Solomon and Yavneh had agreed a common Certificate of Religious Practice - which testifies to a child's synagogue attendance, prior Jewish education and community involvement and must be signed by a rabbi or synagogue official to accompany the school application form.

"Everything has worked well, I am pleased to say," said King Solomon head Spencer Lewis.

Yavneh governors' chair Malcolm Gordon said: "As far as we are aware, it [the CRP] has had no effect whatsoever."

No School Place?

If your child has not been offered a place at their first-choice school, or indeed at any Jewish school, do not despair. Vacancies will almost certainly come up over the next few weeks, so get in touch with the school and make sure you are on the waiting list.

If your child subsequently cannot get a place, you can still try to lodge an appeal.

And if your child is offered a place at a school but you do not want it, notify the school as early as possible — so that it can be offered to another Jewish child who may desperately want it.

    Last updated: 4:04pm, March 4 2010