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Will schools have enough places?

As next Tuesday’s deadline approaches for applications to secondary schools, many parents will be wondering whether there will there be a place for their child in a Jewish school in London.

    As next Tuesday’s deadline approaches for applications to secondary schools, many parents will be wondering whether there will there be a place for their child in a Jewish school in London.

    The creation of more places in the mainstream Jewish state sector for 2017 seems to have been enough to accommodate those who wanted one — though it is always possible that some families settled for a non-Jewish school rather than wait for a vacancy which only became available at a Jewish school later in the allocation process.

    Partnerships for Jewish Schools has offered some reassurance for 2018 following a meeting of Jewish headteachers last week. Rabbi David Meyer, its executive director, said it was “in discussion with the secondary schools to try and ensure the provision of sufficient places for the coming academic year. As has been the case for the past two years, it is our expectation that there will be sufficient additional provision provided.”

    For 2017, JCoSS increased its intake from 180 to 210; JFS was ready to add a bulge class of 30, though in the end it took only a few pupils more than its regular 300 limit; Hasmonean offered 191 places, well above its official maximum of 150.

    There are two differences this year. According to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), there will be more 11-year-olds in the non-Charedi Jewish population applying to secondary school for September 2018 —up from 1755 last year to 1807 this year.

    Secondly, there will be more than 100 additional children graduating from Jewish primary schools because of bulge classes added by a number of them in 2011, along with the first applicants from Etz Chaim, one of the new crop of Jewish free schools. Over successive years, the children of other free schools will be entering the stream.

    More Jewish primary school pupils, however, does not necessarily translate into a rise in applications to Jewish secondary schools. They could simply shift the balance at Jewish secondary schools between those who transfer from Jewish primary and those from non-Jewish primary rather than swell the numbers overall.

    JFS is keeping its options open for next year. Earlier this year it announced it was looking to add 60 places in September 2018 but consultations are continuing and no decision has been taken whether to go ahead.

    Hasmonean eventually hopes to increase to 210 a year — which will not not be on the cards for the next couple of years at least and depends on whether it can overcome planning objections to its redevelopment scheme.

    The opening of a new Jewish secondary school remains a possibility, though not for 2018. The supporters of the New Jewish High School project are still waiting to submit their bid to the Department for Education.

    The government’s education plans were set back by the general election and the Conservatives’ loss of their majority. But Theresa May signalled in her party conference speech last month she was still aiming to open more free schools.

    In the meantime, JPR is carrying out fresh research in order to update the predictions on Jewish school applications which it published in March this year.

    JPR’s previous report was based on those who applied to Jewish schools as their first choice. One thing we do not know is how many families put a Jewish school as a lower choice in the belief a place would be hard to come by — but might have preferred a Jewish school if they had been more confident of finding one.

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