Government approves Yavneh College free school plan


A Jewish primary school in Hertfordshire is one of 18 new free schools announced by the government today.

Yavneh College, in Borehamwood, has finally succeeded in winning approval to open a primary section.

The Orthodox Yavneh Primary School, which is due to open next September, will come as a relief to parents in the area where there has been a shortage of Jewish primary places.

The existing two primaries, the Orthodox Hertsmere Jewish Day School and pluralist Clore Shalom, have been heavily oversubscribed and some Jewish parents have been forced to send their children to schools out of the borough.

Yavneh pimrary will provide 60 new primary places every year.

According to the Department for Education, it will aim to “build upon the same high expectations and educational excellence of Yavneh College, which achieves GCSE results significantly above both local and national average and is the highest-performing non-selective secondary state school in the UK for A-levels.”

Yavneh College president Benjamin Perl said that he was "delighted with the news of the planned opening of Yavneh Free School in Borehamwood, which makes this the second Orthodox Jewish primary school in the area."

There were, he added, "about 2,000 Jewish primary school-aged children wishing to attend a Jewish school and this new school will go very far toward alleviating the existing shortage of school places. I strongly believe that we need to spearhead the foundation of two more Jewish primary schools over the next five to seven years to meet the demands of the burgeoning Jewish community of Borehamwood."

Yavneh headteacher, Spencer Lewis said: ‘This is an extremely exciting time for Yavneh College which will enable us to provide an outstanding educational experience to children from 4-18 years of age. I am looking forward to this next stage of development for our school and to offering further choice to the local community.’

Malcolm Gordon, joint chairman of the Yavneh Foundation Trust, said he was delighted that "after all the hard work everyone has put in, we have been able to realise this dream." He extended thanks to local MP Oliver Dowden for his help and advice.

Mr Dowden CBE, welcomed the announcement and said: “ This project has had my full support from the beginning and will continue to do so. Yavneh College has a well deserved reputation for excellence and I very much welcome the creation of a Primary School that will extend Yavneh’s learning expertise to the youngest members of our community here in Hertsmere.”

Yavneh College chairman Sue Nyman said that "we will be working hard to establish the school in the image of Yavneh College which has an outstanding reputation in the community and which provides such a high standard of education to its pupils."

An alternative bid from another group for a cross-communal Jewish free school in the area failed to win backing from the department.

Yavneh College has been trying for several years to establish a primary section. Three years ago Hertfordshire County Council rejected its plan for a voluntary-aided school in the borough.

Free schools receive state aid while remaining independent of local authorities. But they are more restricted in their admissions policy than voluntary-aided faith schools.

A Jewish free school can guarantee only half its places to Jewish pupils, though other Jewish children can enter on different criteria such as living close to the school.

Yavneh will become the eighth Jewish free school since they were introduced by the last government in 2010.

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