Chasidim apply for free school

What could be the first Chasidic free school has cleared the initial hurdle in its attempt to secure state aid.

Beis Malka, a girls' school in Stamford Hill which has around 400 pupils aged three to 16 and is linked to the Belz Chasidic sect, is one of five Jewish groups which have applied to become free schools next year.

The other four applicants are all for new schools: two cross-communal primaries in south London and Finchley, north London, a strictly Orthodox primary with separate boys' and girls' classes in Hendon, north-west London, and a high school in Leeds.

A spokesman for Beis Malka confirmed this week that it was "exploring the option" of free school status.

The move is significant in showing greater willingness within the Charedi community to come under the umbrella of the state. The cost of maintaining a largely independent educational system continues to put considerable strain on strictly Orthodox families, exacerbated by the economic downturn.

Free schools have more independence than voluntary-aided state religious schools since they are not bound by the national curriculum.

Although they can guarantee only half of their places to members of one faith, they can devote more time to Jewish studies - a likely deterrent to non-Jewish applicants.

Last updated: 2:02pm, May 3 2012