Family & Education

Parents call for changes in school entry lottery


The selection process of Jewish secondary schools has been called into question by parents of children still without a place.

Spencer Jacobs, whose 10-year-old daughter Sophia has been on the waiting list of four Jewish schools in north-west London for two months, said that "there should be a change in the system".

The Finchley Reform Synagogue member believes that the admissions rules of Jewish schools ought to take more account of a family's involvement in Jewish community life.

A family which simply attends a synagogue service four to eight times in the year before entry currently enjoys as much of a chance of a Jewish school place as more regular synagogue users. (The minimum number of attendances vary from school to school.)

Mr Jacobs - whose children attend the synagogue's cheder - said, "People just rock up to shul and get their [entry] forms signed by a rabbi, even if they are not members, have no intention of becoming members and don't send their kids to cheder."

An estimated 20 or more children from Jewish primary schools failed to gain a place at any state-aided Jewish secondary school in north-west London last year. Some were forced to accept places at non-Jewish schools, while others eventually opted for the fee-paying Immanuel College.

Rabbi David Meyer, chief executive of Partnerships for Jewish Schools, said that it was now trying to compile a list of those without a place.

But he has stressed that schools are still making offers and parents should not lose hope. "A lot of parents who got in touch with us earlier have told us they have now got a place," he said.

Gilead Limor, who co-ordinated a group representing families without a place last year, said this week that he had heard of 18 children from three Jewish primary schools and another four from one non-Jewish primary still unplaced this year.

Kelly Ifrah's 11-year-old son Yohann, a pupil at Rosh Pinah Primary School in Edgware, remains on the waiting list of three Jewish state-aided secondaries. "I'm frustrated and I feel bad for my son and his friends who don't have a place," she said. "What is the point of having Jewish schools if there are not enough places?"

Even though JFS had been Yohann's first choice, she was baffled how why he had not received a place there while another child who reportedly had put the school fifth had been offered one.

Mrs Ifrah, who lives in Watford, felt that schools should give precedence to local families. "People who live near JCoSS are going to JFS," she said. "People who live in Essex are going to JCoSS or JFS."

Mr Jacobs also questioned why schools in north London are accepting children from Essex "when they have a Jewish secondary school on their doorstep [Kantor King Solomon]".

Pressure on places should have eased this year as Yavneh College in Hertfordshire has agreed to increase its first-year intake from 150 to 180 as a one-off for 2016. A Yavneh spokesman said that its waiting list of more than a hundred was "a slight increase on last year".

Hasmonean High School in Barnet is also expected to accept more than its official maximum of 150.

Longer-term, Hasmonean hopes to increase its annual entry to 210 by relocating its boys' division in Hendon closer to the girls' site in Mill Hill.

Two groups have also announced plans to apply to open a new Jewish secondary free school in London in 2018. The backers of one project, Kedem High School, said last month that they had "pretty much finalised all of the required paperwork", although one or two issues remained to be addressed.

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