The lack of coordination between Jewish primary and secondary schools in the admissions process – which this year left some pupils without places at Jewish schools - is “unacceptable”, according to the headteacher of Moriah Jewish Day School.
Ruth Gafson spoke in response to last week’s revelation that former Moriah pupil Dylan Joseph, 11, and his parents, Sara and Lloyd, had resorted to home-schooling , after failing to secure a single place at a Jewish secondary school.
She said that both she and Moriah’s chair of governors, Alan Capper, were working with other Jewish primary schools, the umbrella organisation PaJeS – the Partnership for Jewish Schools - and the United Synagogue to tackle the crisis.
“We’ve been supporting Dylan’s family as much as we can, but there isn’t much more that anyone can do,” Ms Gafson said. “There is a meeting with all schools and PaJeS in a few weeks to discuss the situation, because we all realise that it is a live issue, especially for schools that are not feeders.
“We want it to be an even playing field.”
According to the Pinner school’s head, this year has been the worst year ever for secondary school admissions. Of the 30 pupils who left Moriah’s year six in July, seven did not win a place at a Jewish school. Two took places in non-Jewish state schools, two went to the fee-paying Immanuel College, Dylan was home-schooled, and one pupil even decided to repeat the year, hoping his chances would improve in 2016.
“It is a real concern,” Ms Gafson said. “If you ask me, there need to be more provisions in place. Many people have thoughts and suggestions, but nothing is being done about it.
“But at least this year PaJeS is getting the schools to come together and talk about it. It is good to have an organisation that is overseeing and trying to facilitate communication between the schools.”
Ms Gafson said she wanted to see a fairer system, without feeder schools and with all admissions policies based on random allocation, as is the case at JFS in Kenton.
At present, some places at JCoSS are reserved for children from feeder schools Clore Tikva, Akiva and Clore Shalom, while Yavneh saves spots for pupils from Clore Shalom and Herstmere Jewish Primary.
Yavneh College in Bushey, Hasmonean in Hendon and JCoSS in Barnet all offer some places based on the applicant’s proximity to the school.
“If you live in Barnet, you have the choice of JCoSS or JFS,” Ms Gafson explained. “If you live in Hertfordshire, you have the choice of Yavneh or JFS. If you live in Hendon, you have the choice of Hasmonean or JFS. But if you live in Pinner or Hatch End, you only have the option of JFS.
“It is fair, because it is random allocation, but it is also not fair, because our kids are not getting places.”
Ms Gafon said she foresaw another challenging year for admissions, which would only continue to increase, and that parents were already feeling the pressure.
“There has been higher anxiety this year than ever before,” she said. “As a community, we need to be working together to strategically ensure that all the children who want places in Jewish schools get them.
“We are a product of our own success, with more Jewish primaries out there. But over the next few years, there will be more year six classes coming through, with Etz Chaim, Morasha, Alma and Eden added into the mix.
“That is another 90 to 100 places. Where are those children going to go?”