Family & Education

Europe’s largest Jewish school issues funding plea to parents amid financial worries

JFS is looking to raise £1 million from its 'More than' campaign


Europe’s largest Jewish school is in a “crisis” and at risk of “becoming undone” if financial debts are not eased, its headteacher has warned.

JFS is embarking on its first major parent-wide appeal this weekend and is looking to raise £1 million from its “More than” campaign.

Over the next four years it has set itself a target of raising between £4 to 5 million. The school’s headteacher, David Moody, said he did not wish to “sugar-coat” the situation.

People “sometimes falsely assume JFS is bullet-proof, and I just need people to know that it isn’t. The school is in a vulnerable space at the moment and the concern is the finances.”

Dr Moody said it was “the right time” to raise money given the school’s “standing in the community” and it now had an opportunity to “build upon the momentum of the last two years.” 

The cause of the current financial issues stem from a 2003 PFI (Private Finance Initiative) mortgage contract tied to high interest rates, but which is due to come to an end in 2027.  

“When our inflation-linked mortgage comes to an end in four years’ time, we could be in debt in excess of £6 million,” he said. “That is a daunting figure for any headteacher or community to hear. 

“But we’re in a relatively exciting place as a school. We’ve got a truly exceptional staff who are happy again. The turmoil of the last two years has subsided. 

“We’re at the foothills of everything we’re going to achieve. I just wanted to make sure that the work we’ve done over the last 18 months is sustained and forms a basis of even better work that we go on to do in the future.” 

The school could be forced “to replace experienced members of staff with trainees” if fundraising targets were not met, he warned, which could impact the “depth and breadth” of the teaching staff at JFS. 

“I want our pupils to benefit from experienced teachers across the entire school and for the teaching staff of this school to get even more experienced, rather than less. 

“I don’t want [parents] to think I’m scaremongering. The reality is that in March 2024, if we haven’t been able to secure extra funding, then we’re in the difficult position of starting those conversations [with the local authority]. 

“The local authority is already asking questions, as rightly it should as to our future plans. I’ve told them is that the future is in the hands of the community.” 

This weekend’s initiative is not the establishment of an annual appeal to parents but rather the start of a broader campaign to attract financial backers. 

JFS was not relying on families of pupils to combat the entire deficit, but “inroads must be made” before external donors are approached to show them that the school “takes care of itself and has a passionate and committed community behind it.” 

The generosity within the JFS community is “unlike any other” he has ever worked in, he said. “The passion and engagement from this community is amazing. At a normal school you’d be lucky to get 25 per cent of parents sign up to events, at JFS we get the whole year group signed up in 25 minutes. 

“We want the amount of money raised through the ‘More than’ campaign this weekend to be representative of that passion.” 

Shiri Kraus, chair of the Parent Teachers’ Association, said there is “excitement and optimism” within the community.

She added: “JFS has been like the crown of the Jewish community for so many years. It’s very evident the kind of attention and support pupils receive, and there is such effort at making sure they are happy, emotionally and physically.  

“It is heart-warming to see all the parents, who are otherwise busy, to come together in such a dedicated way for the benefit of the children.” 

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