Governors of Akiva School in Finchley insist that proposed changes to its admissions policy next year will not affect its Progressive ethos.
The oversubscribed Reform day school, which takes in 60 children a year, is also popular with families from the New North London (Masorti) Synagogue, which is based on the same site at the Sternberg Centre for Judaism.
Under the current entry rules, children from Reform or Liberal synagogues are entitled to five places to every one for an NNLS child — once siblings and children of staff are taken into account.
But there would be no differentation between denominations in the proposed revision. Families who belong to or who attend services at Reform and Liberal synagogues or NNLS — or whose children attend a nursery at one of them — would be treated equally.
Akiva vice-chairman Kate Daniels, an NNLS member, claimed the new policy would “change nothing” in terms of school’s Progressive ethos or the religious balance of its intake.
“The proposed change is to make the admissions system easy to understand, which the Schools Admissions Code requires us to do,” she explained.
Governors believe that parents already play the system. For example, if a family belonging to NNLS attends a minimum of seven Shabbat services at a Reform synagogue during a year, they may be able to get their child into Akiva on a Reform, rather than a NNLS, place.
Finchley Reform rabbi and past Akiva pupil Miriam Berger feared that “Akiva is losing its unique identity as a Reform Jewish day school to become another cross-communal school”.
If the school was dispensing with the current ratio of Progressive to NNLS applicants, “we want it to assert its commitment to Reform Judaism in another way”.
Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk of Finchley Progressive noted that “Akiva was founded with Progressive Jewish principles and we believe strongly in that continuing with pride. This should continue to mean a school where children of Reform and Liberal synagogues are given priority for places.”