A Jewish primary where almost half of the pupils are not Jewish has been rated outstanding in Jewish studies with Ivrit a particular strength.
Simon Marks Primary in Stoke Newington was “very fortunate” that its headteacher Gulcan Metin Asdoyuran was a foreign language specialist who had been “instrumental in driving the improvement in the standard of Ivrit across the school,” inspectors from Pikuach said.
Other schools could “benefit from Simon Marks and learning from its expertise”.
Just over half - 51 per cent - of pupils are Jewish, 39 per cent Christian and 10 per cent Muslim.
They said it was “a privilege’ to be at the school and over 97 per cent agreed that their Jewish learning made them think more deeply.
Year-6 pupils told inspectors, “Being part of Simon Marks is truly amazing - it is an honour to be in this school."
Parents were happy to send their children there “because of the strong focus on Jewish values and the warm family atmosphere,” Pikuach said. “These universal values cut across all faiths.”
The way the school was developing children’s Jewish character and values was “worthy of being disseminated widely as an example to other schools”, Pikuach said. Pupils were “enthusiastic learners” while teachers, whether Jewish or not, were “excellent role models”.
Assemblies created “an atmosphere of reflection, awe and wonder, which is truly unique”.
In one year-6 discussion on starting the day with prayer, Pikuach reported, “One pupil said: ‘I feel faith that Hashem is going to be with me all day’, while another one felt that ‘Hashem will help me with the work I will do today’.”
When asked what they would take from their Jewish studies into the outside world, pupils mentioned " how to be honest and not to embarrass someone in front of a large crowd".
The school’s annual Chanukah lighting at Hackney Town Hall was cited as a highlight and an example of what it contributed positively to the wider community.
Pupils said they enjoyed taking part in the Etgar Challenge, the annual inter-schools quiz for year-5s, and that workshops with the educational organisation Seed helped them “learn more”.
Jason Marantz, assistant director of education at Hackney Education, said it was “delighted that the school’s outstanding curriculum on offer has been externally validated. We are proud to have them as part of the Hackney family of schools.”