A hotline and database aiming to pinpoint vacancies at Orthodox Jewish nurseries has been launched by the National Association of Orthodox Jewish Schools (Najos).
The service is targeted at parents seeking a nursery for their children after failing to secure a place in the first round of offers at the end of last month. It follows an agreement among the overwhelming majority of north-west London Orthodox primaries, state and private, to co-ordinate the dates on which places in their nursery classes are offered.
Najos represents schools including Hasmonean Primary, the Independent Jewish Day School, Menorah Foundation and Menorah Primary. Commitment to join the scheme has been made by Edgware Jewish Primary, Nancy Reuben Primary, Noam Primary and North West London Jewish Day School.
Najos executive director Jonathan Rabson said the association had become aware of the increasing difficulties experienced by parents over nursery admissions.
"Many were forced to apply to multiple schools and due to the uncertainty, were then placed under pressure to accept early offers, which may not have been their preferred option. From conversations with schools, there was evidence that this year the number of children without nursery places in the strictly Orthodox sector was going to be greater than in previous years. We felt there were many families who might not receive any offers at all."
Parents who cannot find a place for their children can register via a hotline. Their information will be passed on to local rabbonim, who will work with schools to see if the situation can be resolved. Since going live a few weeks ago, the hotline has received 50 inquiries. "Since we launched, two schools have taken action to accept more pupils than their usual numbers, which has helped in part," Mr Rabson reported. "But there are still more than 30 pupils without a place."
With many parents desperate to get their children into a school nursery to boost their chances of gaining a place in the linked primary, Najos sees its move as a first step towards addressing a bigger admissions challenge, particularly among first-time parents.
Mr Rabson says the United Synagogue has expressed interest in joining the initiative on behalf of schools under its aegis.