Probably no Jewish school has ever moved so quickly from drawing board to state approval as the cross-communal primary for Finchley.
Martin Blain, interim chairman of governors for the school, which plans to open in 2013, recalled a meeting of interested parents last December to consider the results of an initial survey into local demand.
“We had only two months to get the application done,” he said. “It was a massive undertaking — it normally takes a year. The application form ran to 150 pages but we decided we would go for it this year because we had a large number of good people helping out.”
Priorities now are to recruit a head and find a site, probably in the North Finchley/Woodside Park area. The cost will be met by the government as part of the carrot to free school sponsors.
“There are a few places we are looking at,” he said. “We are going to have to be creative in order to find a site that meets our needs as we are not going to find a ready-made school.”
Like several of steering group, Mr Blain — who recently joined Immanuel College as a deputy head — is a New North London Masorti member. But the school’s ethos would be “genuinely cross-communal”, he stressed. “We have to be open to a different range of people. Some people say it could be the Limmud school because it’s similar in attitude.” The 230 children registered to date span Orthodox to unaffiliated families.
“The governors of the school, as well as the 30 volunteers involved, come from all branches of our community”, Mr Blain added.“It’s an example of the Jewish community at its best. The government’s approval is recognition of the serious gap that we will be filling.”
Jewish studies will feature a strong element of ethics and culture. Ivrit will be taught as a foreign language and other faiths will be studied.
With more than 60 down for the first reception class, Mr Blain did not expect difficulty in filling places.
As for concerns that there could be too many Jewish schools in future, he observed that “people said the same about secondary schools when JCoSS and Yavneh opened, creating an additional 360 places. They produced more competition and all the schools raised their game. As a result, they have grown the number of families who want Jewish education.”