Schools Secretary Ed Balls said this week that the cross-communal JCoSS secondary school in Barnet will be a beacon for tackling discrimination and prejudice.
“This is a very important and significant day,” Mr Balls told the 200 guests at Monday’s ground-breaking ceremony for the £50 million project.
“This is a time when we have to redouble our efforts, say discrimination is wrong and stand together, community by community, to root out intolerance and prejudice. That is what this school is about.
“I will be going to other local authorities and telling them: ‘Go and learn what has been done at JCoSS’. This school will be a good investment for the future of our country.”
JCoSS will take in its first pupils in September 2010, building up to a roll of 1,310 Jewish children from all backgrounds. School president Gerald Ronson believed it would be instrumental in tackling British Jewry’s declining numbers. “After 10 years in the planning, in just six months we will receive our first applications,” he said. “Suddenly it all seems very real.”
Recently appointed JCoSS head Jeremy Stowe-Lindner reported that the process of reaching parents of potential pupils was picking up speed. “It’s unbelievable the number of people who want to talk to us. It’s a real challenge to make ourselves open to as many people as possible.”
Reflecting the JCoSS commitment to inclusion, a special resource provision will enable 50 children with autism to learn alongside students at the mainstream school. The flagship facility is being developed by Norwood and will be known as the Pears Special Resource Provision in recognition of the Pears Foundation’s £2 million investment in JCoSS.
Mr Balls, Mr Ronson, Mr Stowe-Lindner and Barnet Council leader Mike Freer buried a time capsule including the JC from the week the school received its final planning permission and a fragment of a Second World War bomb discovered by builders at the site last month.