A Jewish primary school has suffered a sharp drop in take-up of nursery places after being forced to change its admissions rules.
Almost a third of the 60 nursery places at the Orthodox Hertsmere Jewish Primary were vacant at the start of the autumn term.
“We started the term with 42 children in the nursery,” said governors’ chair Nicola Weisfeld. “In previous years, we have been full with a waiting list.”
The problem arose after the school was told by Hertfordshire County Council that it would have to amend its entry rules and scrap a provision which previously gave entry preference for the reception class to children who had attended the nursery.
It followed a similar change at another Hertfordshire Jewish primary, the cross-communal Clore Shalom, after a complaint last year to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, the body which regulates admissions.
“We know that there are schools in other authorities which retain the link between nursery and reception,” Mrs Weisfeld said. “We would love to have the link back. But we have been told it can’t happen.”
In past years, parents would move children from other nurseries to HJPS when they were three in order to help them secure a place in reception year.
But now there is no extra advantage in terms of reception place priority, some parents are keeping their children at other nurseries. “We suspected this would happen,” Mrs Weisfeld said.
But the result was “disappointing and concerning”, because a drop in pupil numbers meant reduced state funding for the nursery.
The nursery maintained “a full complement of staff including a qualified nursery teacher”, she stressed.
Governors would be reviewing their nursery strategy next week. “We have to come up with a formula that will work for us and for future nursery children,” Mrs Weisfeld added.