Government rejects one Jewish free school application, but confusion reigns over fate of second

Jewish schools organisation says it may have it wrong in claiming Department of Education had turned down both bids


There was confusion within the Jewish education world today over whether both applications to open a new Jewish free school in north-west London have been rejected by the Department for Education.

Earlier today, Partnerships for Jewish Schools, the Jewish Leadership Council’s education division, issued a press release announcing the DFE’s decision “not to approve the free school applications”.

But while backers of Barkai College have been told directly by the DfE they were unsuccessful, the leaders of the United Synagogue-backed Kavanah College said they had heard nothing.

Now Rabbi David Meyer, executive director of Pajes, says the source who informed him of Kavanah’s rejection may have “got things wrong”.

In an email today to Andrew Rotenberg, one of the leaders of the Kavanah bid, Rabbi Meyer said he would “try to spread the word that you have not heard and I hope you hear positive things soon”.

The DfE said it would not comment on the current round of applications for free schools.

Yesterday, Rabbi Meyer emailed Mr Rotenberg to say he understood the Kavanah bid was “not successful”.

But Mr Rotenberg, who is currently abroad, responded today he was “quite surprised to receive your email as we have not received any notification from the RSC (Regional Schools Commissioner) or the DFE as to the status of our application”.

Rabbi Meyer then wrote back to apologise, saying he was “told by a person who works in the community and I assumed had been informed by you.”

He added: “To my knowledge, he is not in touch with the DfE either and it may well be he has got things wrong.”

Successful bidders for new schools were expected to hear from the DFE in March.

Eve Sacks, who led the Barkai bid, said her team were  “obviously saddened” at the rejection of their bid.

“We put together this bid in consultation with parents and leaders across the Jewish and wider community and know there is a strong demand for the type of school that we envision,” she said.  “Many of us on the team are parents of children who would have benefited from a school like Barkai and we understand that there will be many disappointed parents as a result of this.”

In its press release, Pajes says it has been exploring the possibility of existing schools expanding to cope with the projected additional demand over the next few years as an alternative to new schools. “In many ways, this is a far more economical alternative and will also help mitigate the shortages in teachers and educational resources,” it stated.

Competition for places in Jewish secondary schools in the area has become increasingly intense and  there are predictions of a shortfall of around 135 places within five or six years.

Pajes had planned to meet secondary school headteachers and chairmen of governors  next month to decide the next step.

The JC has previously reported that one or more schools including JFS have been considering whether to increase entry to meet demand.

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