The cross-communal Eden Primary in Muswell Hill has been rated outstanding for Jewish studies by the Pikuach, the Board of Deputies-run service, with inspectors highlighting its “unique and effective” outdoor education programme.
One year-6 pupil felt it was “really important that I have the privilege to go to a school whereI can do Jewish learning whilst enjoying it. Every time we do Jewish studies I learn more about my religion and my teachers make it really fun and interesting.”
A parent commented, “My children even organised their own Tu Bishvat Seder at home. They want to celebrate every festival with joy, and this is thanks to the school.”
Around 10 per cent of its 204 children are from other faiths or none, while Jewish children range from “unaffiliated to fully observant”.
Inspectors were especially impressed with the half-day each class spends weekly in Coldra Woods which “inspires a love of nature and a sense of wonder”.
My children want to celebrate every festival with joy
Pupils were enthusiastic about “the Jewish learning which they have enjoyed in the woods and how memorable this has been for them”. They did tashlich there for Rosh Hashanah and built succot out of natural materials.
While children learn Ivrit and have one dedicated Jewish studies class a week, while Jewish studies are integrated into the rest of the curriculum. Integration was “a real strength” of the school, where inspectors witnessed “high-level discussions” that linked Jewish values to both Jewish and secular texts.
One parent said, ”I like the way that the teaching about Jewish festivals and other aspects of Jewish life is taught across the curriculum, not just in a Jewish studies class, for example it will be incorporated into literacy and numeracy skills.”
Jewish values were “woven into everything they do,” commented another parent.
Pupils had the opportunity to study “authentic Jewish texts and then to apply the lessons they have learnt to the 21st century world in a relevant and meaningful way”. In a year 6 class, pupils were observed learning about how to apply the 39 melachot - categories of work prohibited on Shabbat - to modern life.
As part of its aim to bring “more song and spirit’ into the school, a weekly Kabbalat Shabbat and Bircat Hamazon (Grace after Meals) after lunch have been introduced.
The teacher of the twice-weekly tefillah (prayer) sessions for every class, “supports pupils in acknowledging the Divine and her use of the guitar adds spirit and energy”, Pikuach said.
A wider range of “creative and meaningful” activities fostered personal and spiritual development, with every class marking Rosh Chodesh with their own ritual.