Family & Education

Inspectors hail Etz Chaim’s ‘exceptional Jewish atmosphere’

The Orthodox primary is ranked good overall for its Hebrew and Jewish studies programme


A blessing on your head at Etz Chaim Primary

Etz Chaim Primary in Mill Hill has been ranked as a good school for Jewish studies with outstanding features.

The Orthodox free school provided “rich Jewish experiences” in a “calm and positive atmosphere” where pupils had “respect and affection” for their teachers, according to the Board of Deputies-run inspection service, Pikuach.

In a survey of parents, 94 per cent of respondents said their children enjoyed Jewish students there and 100 per cent would recommend the school to others.

In two of the three inspection areas, leadership and management, and spiritual and personal development, Etz Chaim was graded outstanding.

Headteacher Hannah Martin said, “The most important thing we can do as primary school teachers is create an environment where children are able to learn effectively in a caring and nurturing way, so that they leave our school as well rounded, well-educated young people.”

Developing children’s Jewish character and values was “key to this,” she said, “so to have been recognised so highly for the way we do it means a huge amount to us.”

One parent who attended a chagigah — presentation of a siddur or Chumash to children — told Pikuach it was “wonderful — the children wrote and performed a poem about how much they love the Torah. It was very moving and special.”

Another said, “My child runs into school every day and speaks passionately about her learning - she is thrilled to start learning Chumash.”

Another parent commented, “The Jewish studies staff are all passionate about what they do and the children really love and value Jewish studies.”

Inspectors commended Mrs Martin and Jewish studies lead Yolande Pieters for overseeing “an exceptional Jewish atmosphere that permeates throughout the school”.

Ethical values taught through biblical and other texts were reinforced with activities in and beyond the school - including collecting for a food bank and showing children from two local non-Jewish schools around Etz Chaim’s succah.

Inspectors were very impressed by the “concentration and enthusiasm” of children during prayers. One year-6 pupils said she was grateful for prayer because “it gives you time to reflect on what we care for and what we wish for”.

In one key stage 2 Ivrit lesson, pupils were observed composing short sentences in the language on their whiteboards and one “was so proud of her work that she asked if she could photograph it before rubbing it out”.

Pikuach said, “A recently introduced and well-structured curriculum outlines how the Jewish studies and Ivrit components go hand in hand to provide pupils with Jewish knowledge as well as Hebrew literacy.”

But it found that the school’s marking policy was not always followed consistently.

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