Hasmonean High School for Girls in Mill Hill has been graded as outstanding in every aspect of Jewish studies, producing pupils who display “a thirst for knowledge” and “a love of Torah”.
The report from the two visiting inspectors - both headteachers of Jewish primary schools - was awash with superlatives as they praised the dynamic vision of Hasmonean’s leadership and the outstanding progress made by students.
The school successfully nurtured girls to “become happy, confident, and respectful adults, committed to living a life of Torah and to strive for excellence in Kodesh [Jewish studies] and middos [good character qualities]”, they said.
A growing number were going on from the school to study at seminary and many pupils were leaders in the Orthodox youth movements Bnei Akiva, Ezra and Sinai.
“Our school is like one happy family,” said one Year 10 student. “ My favourite time at school is the weekly dancing during break on Friday and the early morning Beis [study] programme which is so inspirational”.
One pupil told inspectors she used to struggle with davening but “ now with the high quality tefillah lessons, my davening is so meaningful”.
The students prayed “with devotion”, inspectors noted.
A “heartwarming feature” of school life was the support given by older girls to younger ones.
One example of the “beautiful” character qualities was during an unplanned fire drill when “many students thanked the member of staff who had propped the door open for them”.
Every opportunity was taken to personalise the learning to meet the needs of individual students, inspectors said. They were struck by two Chumash classes in Year 11 where one more academic class was taught in a more formal way and the other in “a less text-based fashion”.
Innovative resources included “a key ring which displays different words and phrases, a dictionary which builds up a word bank as students go through the school, and key word translations of the text for students of lower attainment.”
Particularly impressive were the biblical Hebrew, Chumash and tefillah [prayer} courses, but the curriculum on Jewish law needed greater coherence, while that on the sidrah was over-ambitious, inspectors found.
This year, almost half of exam candidates in GCSE biblical Hebrew - 46 per cent - achieved the top 9 to 7, while 100 per cent attained A* to B in the A-level; more than 80 per cent achieved 9 to 7 in GCSE religious studies.
Rabbi Jeremy Golker, menahel (principal) of Hasmonean Multi-Academy Trust, said the “wonderful report” was “a testament to the outstanding practice and professionalism of all my colleagues in the girls’ Kodesh department”. It is a pleasure and privilege to work with them, as well as the fully supportive executive leadership team and governing body.”
To comply with statutory requirements, religious schools can choose inspectors to review their religious studies but they must consult with Pikuach, the Board of Deputies-run inspection service, over the inspection arrangements.