Family & Education

'We feel completely let down by the Jewish state school system'


It is Tuesday afternoon and 11-year-old Dylan is sitting at home in a tracksuit, tears running down his cheeks.

He should be at school. But unlike his peers, he has not set foot in a classroom once this academic year, because he doesn't have a place.

Dylan's parents, Sara and Lloyd Joseph, belong to a Facebook support group, which earlier this year represented more than 40 families whose children did not secure places at Jewish schools. According to them, they are the only ones left whose child is not in full-time education.

Before Dylan finished Year Six at Moriah Jewish Day School in Pinner, he applied for places at Yavneh College in Borehamwood, JCoSS in Barnet and JFS in Kenton; by September, his family had received rejections from all three schools and had failed their appeals.

They turned down a place at their local state school because they wanted a Jewish education for Dylan, choosing instead to home-school him.

We have been living this nightmare every single day

But after almost a term at home and, with no place at a Jewish school in sight, the Josephs have said they are "devastated" and feel "completely let down by the Jewish school system".

Mrs Joseph said: "This started in April when Dylan didn't get the places he applied for. People told us it was 'normal', that we should 'hang on' and a place would come up.

"We have been living this nightmare every single day, watching his friends go off to school while he just sits at home. He has missed a huge chunk of the academic year and we feel traumatised by the admissions process.

"We have written letters, we have appealed, and we have begged to get our son a Jewish education, but no one has done anything to help us."

Mrs Joseph said she has struggled to engage Dylan in school work at home.

She said: "It is impossible to motivate him.

"He is just devastated to be missing out. He feels embarrassed and alone."

The family were offered a place at King Solomon High in Redbridge, but it is a 48-mile journey from their home in Bushey. Coupled with its reputation as a school with fewer Jewish pupils than average - only 43 per cent of the student body are of the faith - the family said it was an "impossible" option.

Mrs Joseph said: "He would have had to spend two hours getting to and from school, which is not practical or enjoyable for a child. He would be too exhausted to learn.

"And we both work too, so it just would not have been possible to drive him and provide for the family."

Mr Joseph, who works in construction, said: "We feel completely lost and let down.

"We are a traditional Jewish family. We have given both our children a Jewish education since nursery. It is what we want for our son and it is what he is used to."

The couple, who both went to non-Jewish schools, have a nine-year-old daughter, Josie, who is at Moriah Jewish Primary. They said that paying for private education was "not an option".

Mrs Joseph, a beauty therapist, said: "Lloyd has just got a job again after 18 months of unemployment, which was very stressful for the family, and we can't afford private."

Speaking about the stress that home-schooling has placed on the family, she said: "It has been really hard.

"We have paid for a tutor, but it is expensive and is not something we can afford every day. I never thought it would get to this point.

"The longer Dylan is out of school, the more challenging his behaviour is going to become because he is frustrated, bored and feels angry."

Mrs Joseph said she had been so desperate for help that she had arranged a meeting with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who, she said, was "visibly moved" by the family's plight.

"I had written to everyone - MPs, headteachers, you name it," she said. "When I went to see the Chief Rabbi, he was so kind and understanding. He told me there was nothing he could do but that he was 'proud' of us as a family for fighting for a Jewish education.

"There was something about seeing him that made us feel soothed. We came out of that meeting feeling like we were doing the right thing."

Dylan told the JC that he has written a letter to Yavneh, asking them to reconsider and offer him a place.

He wrote: "Since March, I have found it very difficult to see my friends getting places at Jewish schools. I feel like I am going to lose my friends because they are making new friends."

At home, he fought back tears as he explained: "I feel left out; I just want to go to a Jewish school with my friends.

"I don't like being at home."

Mrs Joseph said: "It breaks my heart to see him this unhappy. I don't think it is fair that non-Jewish children take up places in Jewish schools when a child like Dylan has dedicated himself to Jewish education all his life."

Listen to our education special podcast looking at the current admissions situation at Jewish schools

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