Plan to end feeder schools upsets parents


Parents have raised concerns after it emerged that two Jewish schools have proposed ending the system of feeder primary schools within the next two years.

Suggested changes to the admissions criteria of Yavneh College and JCoSS were announced this week, as a six-week consultation exercise began.

At present, Clore Shalom Primary and Hertsmere Primary hold feeder status to Yavneh in Borehamwood, while Clore Tikva, Akiva and also Clore Shalom feed into JCoSS in Barnet.

It means that, in certain circumstances, pupils from these primaries are given places in preference to students from other junior schools.

Yavneh and JCoSS have proposed that the system will end in September 2017, affecting pupils currently in year five.

Yavneh said: “This amendment will allow all applicants an equal opportunity to secure a place at the school, regardless of which primary school they attended.”

The school added that it would stop priority places being given to “children for whom Yavneh College is their nearest designated Jewish secondary school”.

Instead, priority would be given to children whose residence is within the WD and AL postcode areas in Hertfordshire.

Yavneh chair of governors, Sue Nyman, said: “The demographics of our local area have changed a great deal in recent years and the governors felt it was important to create a level playing field for Hertfordshire families applying to their local school for entry in 2017. Removing our feeder schools and including a rule prioritising families in the WD and AL postcodes means that we can do that.”

JCoSS headteacher Patrick Moriarty said that guaranteed feeder school places restricted the number of places available to other families in the wider community, which had become of growing concern to governors.

He told parents: “The governors acknowledge that since JCoSS first opened its doors five years ago, families at these [feeder] schools have put their faith in the JCoSS project and have sent their pupils to us in increasing numbers, which has allowed the school to flourish and has strengthened our ethos amongst those communities.

“Those guaranteed feeder school places did however restrict the number of places available to other families in the wider community, which had become of growing concern to governors.

“Governors feel the time is now right to remove our guaranteed feeder school policy. We want to ensure that students from across our community have an equal chance to come to JCoSS.”

He told the JC: “We did say we were on a gradual trajectory to remove feeder schools altogether. Our feeling was, once you get below a certain number of feeder places, it then becomes a bit meaningless and it threatens to pit one parent against another.

“We felt that, bearing this in mind, and bearing in mind there are understandable calls from non-feeder parents to remove the system, it made sense for us to make the change all at once. We are absolutely determined to maintain our links with the former feeder schools – we value the commonality of ethos and will absolutely be continuing our dialogue with those schools.”

This is not the first time the issue has been raised. It has previously been suggested that both Yavneh and JCoSS would end the feeder system – especially since Yavneh will be opening a new two-form entry primary school on its site, beginning with a reception class, in 2016, while JCoSS has already put a cap on the number of places it gives to feeder schools.

But surprise has been voiced by parents that the changes may be implemented so quickly. A protest group was set up on Facebook by Hertsmere parent Adam Myeroff.

Mr Myeroff has three children at the school and relocated his family to Radlett so his children could attend Hertsmere, and then move on to Yavneh. Over 250 parents had joined the group within 24 hours.

Mr Myeroff said: “We are concerned that the consultation significantly disadvantages families outside Borehamwood, which, it is believed, in a short period of time will be the only area to enjoythe school, when in fact the school was set up to serve the wider Hertfordshire area.

“Many year five parents at Hertsmere have already started the secondary school process and were assured at a recent Yavneh open day that the feeder policy was not changing.”

Chairman of governors at Hertsmere Daniel Summerfield said that the school would be appealing to Yavneh to delay the changes.

“We appreciate the rationale behind the decision – that is their prerogative,” he said. “But this is going to cause concern and distress among parents at Hertsmere, especially those with children in year five or below.

“Therefore, we are going to put in a request to Yavneh during the consultation process that they reconsider the date that this proposal takes place. Although we appreciate that changes need to be made to take into account the new Yavneh primary school, we would ask them to delay the date.

“We believe we have a duty of care to our parents who might have an expectation that the feeder status is in place, as it was when they started at the school. In our view, the system needs to be phased out, and should be delayed until the first cohort of pupils going from Yavneh Primary will be going into secondary school in 2023.”

Simon Ezequiel, chairman of governors at Clore Shalom, acknowledged that the changes would create uncertainty for parents and advised them to take part in the consultation process.

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