Family & Education

JFS is rated outstanding for Jewish studies

New Jewish studies programme gives all students a taste of text


JFS students do three-quarters of a grade better in their GCSE religious studies than might have been predicted when they started school, according to a new report which has rated its Jewish curriculum outstanding in all areas.

Pikuach, the Board of Deputies-run inspection service, praised the “dynamic vision” of “outstanding” headteacher Rachel Fink, who joined the school in May 2018, together with her team and governors.

Inspectors “interviewed many students and the positive impact of their Jewish experience at JFS was clear”.

Much of the teaching was outstanding and it was “never less than consistently good”.

Excellent initiatives included the new Hebrew reading support scheme, the Pause for Thought reflection at the beginning of the day and the new Israel residential scheme which sent its first group to the Alexander Muss High School this year.

The revamped Jewish studies curriculum, now in its third year, “enables students to engage with Jewish texts, whereas in the past, only certain groups were offered this opportunity,” Pikuach said.

Some students with flexible time tables in order to support current mental health challenges “make sure they are in school for Jewish studies because they enjoy the curriculum”.

Around three-quarters of students achieve above their target after their first year of study and some are considered for moving up to the top two sets for more advanced study, which for example involves familiarity with the commentator Rashi.

The school’s 2023 students span a wide range,from some who enter need extra help to start reading Hebrew to those who plan to study in yeshivah or seminary when they leave.

Taking into account their starting point, the proportion of students  “making or exceeding expected progress is high in relation to their potential,” Pikuach said.

In GCSE religious studies, where pupils do some study of Islam, nearly one in five – 19 per cent- gained the top grade 9, compared with 13 per cent nationally.

On average, students achieved a score of 6.6 in religious studies, placing them in the top 20 per cent of the country.

Nearly three in five – 58 per cent- attained grades 9 to 7, compared with 31 per cent nationally.

And three-quarters of those who fell below their target grade in their mock exams reached or surpassed it in their actual GCSE after tailored teaching support.

Most sixthformers were complimentary about the new Morasha sixthform programme with 70 per cent finding it engaging and interesting: and as many as 96 per cent said the sessions on relationships helped them better understand the topic.

One parent  with three children at the school told Pikuach, “The courses are innovative and challenging, and they find their teachers inspiring”.

Mrs Fink said she was "exceptionally proud of the entire staff who all contribute to ensuring that Jewish values are embedded at JFS.  This extends to the governing body who have helped to ensure that JFS is a school based on strong Jewish values and principles."

The changes had begun with the new curriculum led by deputy head Daniel Marcus, she said, while collaboration between informal  and formalJewish education had been strengthened under the leadership of Simon Rinkoff, head of Jewish studies, and head of informal, Julia Nielsen. 

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