Scottish school row finally claims Tony Tankel’s scalp

By Jennifer Lipman, November 16, 2012
Stepping down: Tony Tankel (Photo: Leonard Esakowitz)

Stepping down: Tony Tankel (Photo: Leonard Esakowitz)

The chair of the parent council of Glasgow’s Calderwood Lodge has resigned after a prolonged spat over the status of Scotland’s only Jewish school.

Tony Tankel said he was stepping down after more than four decades of involvement in the school, as a pupil, youth worker and now a parent. As the leading figure on the council, he had repeatedly argued that, in keeping with the most recent inspection report, the primary was a “non-denominational school with a Jewish ethos”.

The school, which opened in 1962, caters to both Jewish and non-Jewish children but offers kosher food and Jewish studies.

His description of the school as non-denominational had been questioned by parents and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council (JRC), because Scottish education law makes certain provisions for denominational schools, including the right of a religious body to approve teachers and for there to be a specific supervisor of religious instruction.

Last month, John Wilson, director of education at East Renfrewshire Council, confirmed in a letter to JRC president Edward Isaacs that the school has enjoyed denominational status since 1982. He said unequivocally that Calderwood Lodge was “a denominational school at this point in time”.

Row centred on whether school was a full faith school

Mr Tankel accused the JRC of introducing “a contentious debate that has deteriorated into an acrimonious conflict” in seeking to confirm the status.

“I now fear that the argument has menacing undertones,” he said. “To me, Calderwood Lodge cannot belong just to one group or one part of the Calderwood community.”

His resignation follows heated meetings involving the parent council and concerned parents, and comes after parents highlighted their anxiety about the standards of Jewish education in the two-year period since the local authority took over running of the school.

Of particular concern was the fact that the independent advisory body set up as part of the handover to monitor Jewish education was disbanded in June with no consultation arranged by the parent council.

In his resignation letter, Mr Tankel denied that the link between the school and the local Jewish community had been fundamentally altered. He said he had “huge concerns as to what the future now holds for this great school”.

A father who drew attention to the alleged problems at Calderwood Lodge in September said the mood was very positive following Mr Tankel’s decision to step aside. “The feeling is that we can now move forward,” he said.

A spokesman for East Renfrewshire said a new chair would be chosen by parent council members. He added that, with the school officially identified as denominational, “as things stand, Calderwood is operated just like any other denominational school”.

Last updated: 11:52am, January 21 2013