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From a handful to hundreds at Sacks Morasha Primary

    Headteacher Hayley Gross with (l-r) Joshua Hajioff, Assaf Soreq, Miri Nogradi, Rebecca Saunders, Adina Kut, Hodaya Mason, Tammy Cuby and Jake Goldschmidt
    Headteacher Hayley Gross with (l-r) Joshua Hajioff, Assaf Soreq, Miri Nogradi, Rebecca Saunders, Adina Kut, Hodaya Mason, Tammy Cuby and Jake Goldschmidt

    Upstairs at Sacks Morasha Jewish Primary School, eight Year 6 pupils are finishing up a morning lesson.

    Excitement is palpable as conversation turns to summer holidays and starting new schools in September. Between them, they'll be moving on to Hasmonean High, Yavneh College, Immanuel, JFS and JCoSS.

    So far, so ordinary for any 10 or 11-year-old; but these pupils are special.

    They were, after all, Sacks Morasha's very first students. Before the school had a permanent home, or even a headteacher, they were on its books.

    They accompanied it on its journey through two temporary sites to a permanent premises in Finchley. And they witnessed its growth from a school of eight to one of 177, and growing.

    It is therefore inevitable that their impending departure will be momentous - as much for these Year 6 pupils themselves as the younger years who look up to them, not to mention the school's teachers and governing body.

    "It's going to be a big transition for us and for them," says Hayley Gross, Sacks Morasha's headteacher. "But we have worked hard to prepare them. They have made efforts to have outside interests and outside friends too.

    "We're very proud that each one of them has a place at a Jewish school, because we know how hard that is to guarantee these days.

    "And though we'll be sad to see them go, I'm determined for them to experience life in a bigger school."

    It has been seven years since Sacks Morasha was founded, and just over two years since it moved to its permanent site on Stanhope Road in north London.

    It may be lesser known than some of the community's long-standing primaries, but the school, which was set up by six families at Finchley Synagogue who conceived the idea while sitting in a succah, counts an impressive roll call of backers.

    It was named after emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, and boasts his successor, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, as its honorary principal. The latter has had a particularly personal stake in the school's journey as he was Finchley's rabbi at the time of its founding. Jason Marantz, dean of the London School of Jewish Studies, is its chair of governors.

    Pride is evident in the school from the walls that are lined with children's drawings and essays. Along the entrance hall, a potted history, painted by pupils, illustrates its development.

    "I think it's amazing how we've evolved," says 10-year-old Jake Goldschmidt, who has been there since day one. "No one had ever heard of us, but now people know who we are. I'm really proud that I saw it from the beginning."

    For Hodaya Mason, 11, her form's graduation is bittersweet: "Because we're such a small class, it's like we're all big brothers and sisters here."

    Her classmate, Adina Kut, 11, adds: "We know the names of every person in the school and we're all so friendly. I have friends in other schools who say that the girls and boys stay away from each other, but we don't do that here."

    Now, as the school prepares to say goodbye to its very first class, Ms Gross - who began at Sacks Morasha as a reception teacher - says her sights are set firmly on the future.

    "We got 'good with outstanding features' in our first Ofsted inspection last year. I now want 'outstanding'."

    She adds: "We have open doors here. I'll often try to stop whatever I'm doing to give the kids attention."

    No sooner said than done, four-year-old Rafael and five-year-old Jacob burst into her office to show their artwork. She gives them each a sticker.

    "We grow and change with the pupils," Ms Gross says. "We started so small, but we still want each one of them to feel important. It's about treating them as individuals."

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