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A new recipe for success at JFS

    Students on the BTEC show their hospitality
    Students on the BTEC show their hospitality

    As the largest Jewish school in Europe, it can be difficult for JFS to cater for the wide-ranging interests of its student body.

    But that is not for lack of trying. This year, the Kenton school launched its new BTEC qualification in hospitality - and six months in, 15 budding masterchefs are singing its praises.

    Last week, the group of students studying the two-year course, all currently in year 12, showcased their catering skills at a special event to celebrate the programme's official launch. Smoked salmon blinis, "mocktail" drinks and homemade fudge were just a few things on their specially-designed menu - all prepared in the school's bespoke, industrial (and kosher) kitchen.

    "We felt we needed to tap into our student base who were studying food tech at GCSE," explained Shelley Poll, who runs the school's technology department. "It is so important because we have all levels, all abilities and all desires here . We want to look at individuals and promote their learning. We all learn via a different route."

    Over two years, pupils studying the BTEC, which is equivalent to two A-Levels, study catering, front of house management, business, marketing, financial control, and also take up work placements at local restaurants or hotels. Many then choose to continue studying hospitality at university or to start an apprenticeship.

    This has given me the opportunity to study what I love and stay within the Jewish community at the same time

    "It gives them other options, but at the same time gives them UCAS points," said their teacher, Jennie Holden. "Ours is the first Jewish school to offer this kind of programme."

    For 16-year-old Naomi Sinclair, the coursework-based course was the perfect post-GCSE choice, especially since she wanted to avoid sitting exams. "I didn't know what I wanted to do before studying hospitality," she said. "This has given me direction. My parents are now shocked by my cooking skills."

    Jonathan Rashti, 17, said he was delighted when JFS launched the course. "I always knew I wanted to go into the catering industry," he said. "This has given me the opportunity to study what I love and stay within the Jewish community at the same time."

    Meanwhile, Daniel Feller, 16, said his new skills had been harnessed at home to good effect. "On New Year's Eve, my grandma had a dinner party. I was the waiter and also helped her cook."

    Following in the footsteps of the school's successful CACHE course, which teaches childhood and education, the scheme points to a new direction in learning, with more emphasis placed on improving a child's vocational training alongside his or her academic studies.

    It may be early days for gauging the success of such programmes, but the proof is in the pudding.

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